|This is a piece of fan fiction based on the Disney/Buena Vista Television
series Gargoyles. Most of the characters in this story are their property,
not mine. Please see the end of the story for the full customary disclaimer.
Lyrics to “Is It a Crime” written by Sade Adu; music by Sade Adu, Stuart Matthewman, and Andrew Hale. Produced by Robin Millar for Modern Media Ltd. Copyright 1985, CBS Records.
This story takes place about a month after “The Journey.” And, for those of you familiar with Greg Weisman’s outline regarding the progression of Goliath and Elisa’s relationship, it assumes that the hunter’s moon (i.e., the first full moon after the harvest moon) that year occurred too late for the romantic leads to arrange—that year, anyway—possibly the most famous double date that never happened, even fictionally.
Editor's note: contains some strong language.
Son of a gun, Elisa thought. Would you look at that.
She had just arrived home in the early morning daylight after yet another seemingly endless overtime shift. When she turned the light on in the expansive loft living area, she saw the note outside the sliding window panel. Another one.
What a guy. Other broads would kill for this.
It was mainly her work that had been preventing her and Goliath from meeting face-to-face over the past few weeks. Thanks largely to the Quarrymen and their less-than-legal activities in their pursuit of financing and members, life was not dull for the NYPD these days, and the 23rd Precinct was no exception. It was a shame, too. This was a good, if tiring, time of year for the gargoyles and those who would keep company with them. The nights were at their longest, and Elisa would normally have plenty of time to spend with her friends at the Castle Wyvern before and after work. But not these days. She was getting to the station at about the time her non-human companions were rousing themselves from their stone sleep, and the oceans of paperwork were keeping her at her desk until well after sunrise. And even when she and Matt got out of the station house and into the streets, they hadn’t managed to run into their winged colleagues for a while, only their aftermath—a couple of terrified punks here, a bound thug there.
Goliath’s response was to start leaving notes for her, wedged in the window latch outside. The longer ones—citations of poetry or pithy paragraphs from literary novels, treatises on military strategy or philosophy—were typed up on, and printed out from, Lexington’s computer. The shorter ones were hand-written.
His handwriting had a unique, distinct aesthetic quality to it, she had determined. His large, sharp talons were well suited to hauling his massive frame up sheer faces of concrete and brick and stone, but the manipulation of a writing instrument was another matter. His penmanship greatly reminded her of Chinese or Japanese calligraphy. The letters were formed with individual strokes that, even as swipes of ink on a piece of paper, were imbued with grace, elegance and strength.
His handwriting was beautiful, she had concluded.
She had meant to leave notes for him in return, but for some reason had not been making the time for it. The fact was, she just wasn’t sure what to say. She needed to give it some thought. It was never a good time for that when she got home; she was exhausted. Then, invariably these days, she’d oversleep, have to rush to get her chores done and get ready for work, and run off to the station without sitting down to put pen to paper for him. She wondered just what it was that was causing her writer’s block, and resolved, once again, to do better tomorrow.
She slid the window open and extracted the note. Another short one, she saw with a flash of delight—and in another flash, realized that it was not what she thought it was.
“MAZA,” it read in large block letters, “WE HAVE YOUR KID. WILL TRADE FOR THE GARGOYLE OF YOUR CHOICE. MORE LATER.”
Elisa felt as though she had just been hit over the head with a length of steel pipe. She was numb and tingly, and wasn’t sure if she was breathing or not. She wandered over to the couch and lowered herself on unsure legs.
As she sat staring at the note, some corner of her mind that was still functioning normally was trying to tell her that she had a case on her hands that demanded action right now. The part of her mind that coordinated physical responses to such messages, unfortunately, was blankly off line.
Finally, something kicked into gear inside of her. She grabbed the phone and punched in the number of the warden at Riker’s Island Penitentiary.
“Warden, this is Elisa Maza.”
“Well, hello, Detective. What can I do for you?”
“I need to talk to Tony Dracon immediately.”
“What the hell’s going on, Maza?” Tony Dracon hissed into the receiver when he picked up the phone. “I just got a call from Glasses. Somebody left a note for him last night demanding what’s left of my turf in exchange for my kid, quote-unquote. The asshole tells me to wait for more information. Just what the fuck is this bullshit, anyway?”
“You tell me, Dracon,” Elisa spat back. “I found a note stuck outside my window this morning. All it said was, ‘We have your kid; will trade for a gargoyle.’ You tell me what this bullshit is.”
Tony Dracon was not used to being in the dark or on the defensive, even when behind bars. In the past, when he had served brief sentences at Riker’s Island, his crime syndicate had thrived under his absentee leadership. This time, even with his network severely diminished—thanks largely to the legal outcomes of his recent turf war with Tomas Brod—he had been making headway in reestablishing his organization’s presence on the New York crime scene, especially since his team of lawyers was able to secure light sentences, if any, for his right-hand men after the extortion bust. (Due to the efforts and testimony of one Elisa Maza, Dracon himself was not as fortunate.) This, however, was a completely different kind of challenge for him. He bit his lip as he tried to decide on his next acerbic remark, but he kept coming up empty-handed.
“I’ll see what I can find,” he said at length, in a voice as subdued as he felt. “I’ll talk to my boys and have them look around. I’ll let you know what they come up with.”
Elisa was confused by his relatively helpless response. “Don’t you think it’s Brod’s gang acting up again? It seems to me he’d be the prime suspect. Look, it’s no secret that you’re still calling your outfit’s shots from where you are. I’m sure he’s doing the same.”
”I am too, Maza, but I just don’t get the feeling that he’s been planning something like this. I live with the guy, for chrissake. In my line of work, you learn a lot about non-verbal communication, and his body English just isn’t there. I don’t think it’s him.”
“Remember, Dracon, his body English isn’t English. Think you might be missing something in the translation?”
“No, I don’t. The look in the eyes isn’t there, either, and there’s no language barrier for that. If it’s his organization, then it’s got to be a maverick lieutenant calling the shots. I’d bet my parole on it.”
Elisa sighed in frustration. “Fine. I’ll start investigating everybody who could possibly be after both my friends and what’s left of your business—or, whoever could be after the both of us directly. If you can think of anyone yourself, let me know.”
“Apart from the Quarrymen, I can’t think of anyone off the top of my head, but heck. You and I both have a knack for winning friends and influencing people. You know that. It could be anyone. My guys will look into the maverick lieutenant possibility, but I somehow get the feeling that we’re dealing with someone completely new on the scene.”
“Well, let’s just hope this someone makes beginner’s mistakes,” Elisa replied. “I’m also going to check with the family, and get as much information from them as I can.” She paused. “I’ll keep you posted too.”
“Maza, who else are you planning to call in on the case?” he asked warily.
“Well, besides my partner and the captain, obviously, I’m sure we’ll end up with plenty of help—other precincts, the FBI—”
Dracon sighed with annoyance.
“Oh, come on,” she insisted, “be realistic. This is a kidnapping. A felony. Besides, they can only help. A lot.” Another pause. “And I know that Matt and Captain Chavez will be very understanding.”
It was Dracon’s turn to pause. “And your guys with the wings?” he asked, his voice even lower.
“Not if it can be helped.”
“Yeah…I wouldn’t think you’d want to go there,” he replied, a note of—was it sympathy?—creeping into his still-subdued voice.
Elisa rallied herself. “All right, I’m getting on this,” she announced to him. “You do the same. I’ll call you as soon as I have something we can use, and you get hold of me any way you can as soon as you find anything. Leave me a message or whatever. Just stay in touch.” Her voice was becoming transparent, and her nerves were starting to show through.
“I will,” Dracon assured her. “And, Elisa?” he added, with concern, even gentleness, in his voice.
“Yeah?” she muttered.
“Don’t worry. Joey will be fine.”
Another, longer pause. “I know. Thanks, Tony,” she replied, and hung up.
Behind the closed door of the captain’s office, Maria Chavez stood next to her desk, upon which the terse note lay open. She was holding Elisa in a long, compassionate hug. Matt sat back in one of the chairs in front of the captain’s desk, dazed. He and the captain had returned to the station following Elisa’s urgent calls to them. Now they were facing a case unlike any they had ever faced before.
No wonder Elisa seemed to have an unusually large amount of antipathy toward Tony Dracon. Just the mention of his name was enough to cloud her features, even when she was in a good mood. He and his family had given the entire NYPD more than their share of trouble over the years, and Elisa and her colleagues certainly had their hands full when they would attempt to bring Tony Dracon and his gang to justice. But Elisa always seemed to use him for her whipping boy. Anytime something went wrong and explanations were not readily apparent, his was the first name on her lips, spoken in dark accusation. Lately, his name sometimes would be replaced by David Xanatos’ or Demona’s under similar circumstances, but Dracon nevertheless remained on her permanent shit list. A couple of times, Matt had even found himself wondering, after a stream or two of particularly colorful nastiness from Elisa, what the heck Dracon had ever done to her.
Now he knew.
Elisa told them everything. They had known that Dracon was in Elisa’s class in high school, and that the two had known each other then, but nothing more. They hadn’t known that, by their senior year, he had long been enthralled by her unusual, mature combination of spirit and poise, not to mention her looks, or that she had been attracted, like a moth to a flame, to his darkly handsome features, irreverence, and aura of danger. It had been her one great act of teenage rebellion, as the daughter of a policeman, to carry on a high-school flirtation with him; his father’s business was common knowledge. Matt and the captain hadn’t known that she had agreed to go on a date with him the weekend after their graduation, a date that had gone so well that it eventually ended up far outside of the city, on a deserted beach up the shore of Long Island. And they never, in their wildest imaginations, could have known the vital roles that the moonlight, the sound of the pounding surf, and one steamy, heart-stopping slow dance played that night.
Matt knew that Elisa had taken a year off between her senior year of high school and her first year of college. She had explained that her mother, who was still a professor at Columbia, had helped to obtain a deferment of her acceptance to that university because Elisa’s assistance was needed on her aunt’s farm in Alabama for that year after high school. It never would have occurred to him that Elisa had been the one in need of assistance, not her aunt.
The idea of getting an abortion had filled Elisa with dread at the time, an almost reflexive aversion to what seemed to her on a very gut level as unnatural violence of a terribly personal sort. She felt traumatized enough as it was, in light of her own body’s act of grievous betrayal.
As Elisa’s pregnancy progressed, arrangements were made back in Connecticut to place the baby with some friends of friends. Elisa and her family were acquainted with them, and knew that it was an ideal situation. Here were two kind people with a sturdy marriage and a comfortable life, other than the fact that it held no children.
And they longed to be parents. They had been through the hell of trying and trying, followed by testing and testing, concluding with one, then two, then three different opinions from fertility specialists, all leading to a dead end. They dealt with the grief that this knowledge brought, then had begun the tortuous process of becoming certified as adoptive parents. They were in the final steps of that process, and certification was imminent. And then, the waiting would begin. A year, two, maybe four. There was no way of knowing.
And then the solution appeared.
When Elisa learned of her pregnancy, she felt her world crash to an end. When Ben and Janet Shapiro learned that this pregnancy would yield the answer to their most fervent prayers, their new world began.
Elisa had her baby in Alabama, and a social worker affiliated with the hospital volunteered to handle the rest. After carefully reviewing the Connecticut adoption agency’s dossier on the case and holding lengthy phone interviews with the Shapiros and their case worker, she agreed to fly up to Connecticut with the baby and the necessary legal papers, and was pleased to participate in the placement of a lovely infant with a lovely couple.
Elisa’s life started back up again following the baby’s birth. With only a select few closest friends and relatives in on the truth, she resumed her studies, her interests, and her friendships—except for one. Upon learning of Elisa’s pregnancy, Tony Dracon had, out of sheer terror, put as much distance between himself and Elisa as he could, both physically and emotionally. He went on an extended vacation to Maine. To San Francisco. To Italy. On the rare occasions Elisa was able to reach him, to give him basic information on the progress of the baby’s placement, Tony wouldn’t say more than a few words to her.
Elisa in turn summarily gave him a dishonorable discharge from her life once his legal role in the baby’s placement was complete. And that was that.
As time went on, after Tony took over the family business and he and Elisa found themselves on directly opposite sides of the law, their relationship deteriorated even more drastically. On the occasions when the law would catch up with him and his activities, therefore, the law usually was in the form of Elisa, who in turn would demonstrate almost unseemly delight in taking him down.
Matt ran a hand through his short red hair and looked up at Elisa, who was still in the embrace of Captain Chavez. “Elisa, are you going to call the clan in on this one?”
“Not on your life, Matt,” she mumbled against the captain’s shoulder. The captain released her, and Elisa sat back down. Maria Chavez regarded her, not sure if Elisa’s decision not to enlist the help of her gargoyle friends on this case was good or bad.
“I want to start by talking to the Shapiros,” Elisa said to him. “And I’d like to get going as soon as possible. Maybe, later on, I’ll find a little more information at my place, too,” she added, referring to the mysterious appearance of the note.
“Sounds like a plan,” Captain Chavez encouraged as the two partners rose to their feet and started to leave. “Elisa, just a second.”
Elisa stopped and turned around. The captain walked over to her and put a hand on her shoulder. “I want you to understand that the department will do everything it can to protect your confidentiality. You’ll have whatever resources available to you that you feel you need. And anytime you need to talk, or want to talk, about anything, my door and my ears are wide open to you. Understand?”
She nodded. “Thank you, Captain,” she replied softly, and turned to go.
5:45 PM, THE PREVIOUS DAY
Ten-year-old Joey Shapiro lived with his parents in a quiet, relatively affluent Connecticut suburb. His father was a corporate finance specialist for a Wall Street investment banking firm, and his mother was a pediatrician who had maintained flexible hours after she and her husband adopted Joey. Joey had known for as long as he could remember that he was adopted, and it made him feel kind of special, when he would even give it any thought at all. He felt that he had an extra guardian angel in his background in the form of his birth mother. He had never met Elisa, and his parents had met her only once, several years before Joey was born. Yet he considered her presence in his life as singularly benevolent, albeit vague.
On this early December day, he had a great deal to look forward to. His favorite great aunt and uncle were going to be flying in from London for a rare two-week visit over Hanukkah, and they would be joining Joey and his parents on their trip to Sarasota to visit Joey’s grandparents over the extended Christmas/New Year period. The entire month was shaping up to be one fun time after another, and Joey intended to savor every day of it.
He was walking the eight blocks home from his friend Brian Hoolihan’s house in the wintry darkness of the early evening. Dry brown leaves crunched under his feet in the gutter as he crossed the street, and the bare tree branches above him sliced sharply and delicately through the bluish illumination of the streetlights. He thought of the latkes that his mother had promised to make for supper that night (“Why wait for the holiday?” she had said. “Let’s eat some now!”), and he could fairly hear them sizzling in the frying pan as he walked.
Life was awesome, he thought.
A car pulled up to the curb next to him. The front passenger-side window slid down.
Joey did not recognize the man addressing him, although he thought he should, since the man knew his name. He stopped, perplexed.
“We’re friends of the Hoolihans,” the man explained. “We happened to stop by their house just after you left, and they asked us to give you a ride the rest of the way home.”
The man seemed nice enough, and what he was saying could very well have been true, but Joey couldn’t help getting a funny feeling about this. A voice was sounding in his head, reminding him that if he got into this car, he would be accepting a ride from a stranger, no two ways about it.
“No thanks, sir,” he responded. “I’m fine. I can walk. It’s not too far.”
“Yes, sir. Thanks anyway.”
The window slid up, and the car pulled off. It rounded the corner up ahead and was obscured from view by the high stone wall surrounding the property at the end of the block.
Joey figured that, if these guys were in fact operating under Mr. and Mrs. Hoolihan’s instructions, the Hoolihans ultimately wouldn’t be too put out with him if he gave an explanation of not wanting to get into a car with a stranger. After all, this was something that he and every kid learned from earliest childhood. You just didn’t get into cars with strangers, and he was sure Brian’s parents would understand.
Joey approached the end of the block. As he got to the far side of the wall, his world flew into complete chaos.
Two men jumped on him. For the first split second, he thought they might pummel him and steal his Yankees jacket, his backpack, his shoes… No, he realized; they were stealing him. An arm squeezed around his face, apparently meant to keep him from crying out. It was unnecessary; he was too shocked to do anything but voice a remark of surprise, which was easily muffled against the man’s arm. Still not able to get a good look at his assailants, he was picked up by one of them and thrown into the back of the car that had pulled alongside of him a few minutes prior. As the sharp acceleration of the car pushed him against the backrest of the seat, he looked up and recognized one of the men as the one who had spoken to him out of the passenger-side window earlier.
His shock began to give way to fear and outrage as the car sped along, carrying him farther and farther away from his house. He was still struggling with the two men; now they were going to work with rolls of duct tape, binding his arms behind him at the wrists.
“What—what’re you doing? WHO ARE YOU?” he demanded angrily.
“Relax, kid,” one of the men beside him said as the other grabbed his ankles to steady them for an application of duct tape. “We’re just going on a little adventure.”
“Adventure, MY BUTT!” Joey exclaimed. “TAKE ME HOME!”
“Not just yet, kid,” the other man said as the first one wrapped duct tape around his ankles.
This really, really sucks, Joey thought.
Joey figured that the next application of duct tape would be over his mouth, and he was right. He almost didn’t fight it, and, ruefully realized, missed an opportunity to give the jerk applying the tape a bite on the hand he would never forget. I’d better start thinking straight, here, Joey reminded himself. Who knew what these guys would do next?
Elisa and Matt sat with Ben and Janet Shapiro in the living room of their neat, comfortable suburban home. The coziness of the home belied the wrenching suffering of its occupants as they struggled to make sense of what had happened in the last two days. They had reported Joey’s absence to the local police as soon as it was apparent that he was not home from his friend’s house within a reasonable amount of time, but, since the local authorities did not yet know for sure that this was a kidnapping—let alone who the actual extortion targets were—no other precincts had been notified. As it was, the Shapiros could offer Elisa and her partner no information whatsoever, and not just because they were enmeshed in their own private hell. They themselves had received no communication from the kidnappers. They had no enemies, no fortunes for ransom, no unstable relatives, no past—nothing that gave any indication of the identity of the kidnappers.
Matt sat off to one side, both unable and unwilling to participate in the conversation. He just listened and watched as Elisa, with a gentleness that he had never before seen in her, asked the distraught couple one question after another, in the process of going through a comprehensive list of potential leads.
Elisa was wearying. She stopped at one point, trying to remember the question she was about to ask, and growing unduly impatient at herself for failing to do so.
Taking this as his cue, Matt stepped in, effectively terminating the session for want of lucid participants.
With promises to do their best that rang hollow to all, Matt and Elisa readied themselves to depart. As they did, Janet looked earnestly at her son’s birth mother. “Elisa,” she began, “Ben and I realize that this can’t be any easier for you than it is for us,” she said compassionately.
Elisa looked down, grateful for the generosity of spirit and profound understanding of these extraordinary people. She looked back up at them.
“You’re right; it’s tough. I’d be lying if I said otherwise.” She rose to her feet. “I assure you, though,” she continued, her voice growing comfortingly authoritative, “there are a lot of very highly skilled people working on this case with me.” She glanced at Matt. “More than enough to…handle anything I can’t.” She looked down again. “We’re going to find Joey, and we’re going to do it fast.” She didn’t look back up.
Ben rose and walked over to her. He put his arms around her. “Thanks, Elisa,” he said simply. He stepped back, his hands on her shoulders, and looked directly into her face, making her look back up at him. “If anyone can handle this, it’s you,” he insisted. “You can do anything.” His voice grew uneven. “You’re our hero,” he emphasized touchingly.
She smiled at him through tight lips. She didn’t even give a thought to trusting her voice at that point; that was out of the question. She nodded briefly to both of them, then hastily exited the house as her eyes filled with tears.
Goliath decided that this had gone on long enough. The last time he and Elisa had been in each other’s presence, they had spent what should have been a quiet evening to themselves jumping from rooftop to rooftop, dodging Quarrymen. Prior to that, on the turret, she had left him with that achingly brief, indescribably sweet kiss on his lips. As the days intervened, the initial euphoria following that moment had settled down to quiet contentment, which in turn had gradually given way to concern as more days passed with no word from her after their ill-fated attempt at a date. Now, this concern was being overshadowed by the increasingly sickening feeling that, once he had taken the exceedingly rare step of opening his heart up and allowing it a little freedom, it had engaged in nothing but the most unforgivable treachery.
He left her another note that night, a brief, handwritten one. It read, simply, “I miss you, Elisa. Please let me see you. I shall wait for you at our spot in the park, tonight at your break time.” As he wedged it into the window latch, the inside of his broad chest felt as dark and lifeless as her unoccupied apartment looked.
Down at the end of the alley, two plainclothes police officers from the 23rd Precinct sat in an unmarked car, observing Goliath as he left the note.
“He’s the note-leaver who’s OK, right?” one asked the other.
“Yep,” she answered as she glanced at her watch and jotted a few words on her notepad. “Believe it or not, he’s the one with the pass.”
Her partner watched Goliath as he glided off. “I don’t think I wanna see whoever it is who isn’t OK,” he said at length.
“Word up,” his partner replied with arched eyebrows.
Elisa returned home a full two hours into daylight. Once again, she was exhausted; her sleep the previous afternoon had been brief and fitful.
She saw the note on the window and rushed over to it. She drew it inside and opened it, trembling slightly.
“WEDNESDAY MORNING. 2 AM. WEBER WAREHOUSE.”
Elisa felt somewhat relieved to see progress. She carefully folded the note and put it in her jacket pocket as she walked over to the phone and dialed the captain’s home number.
“Captain, it’s Elisa. I have another note.”
“Good. What does it say?”
Elisa read the brief message to her.
“I’ll get you a couple of backup squads. Strange, though,” she added.
“The surveillance team never called anything in.”
“Damn,” Elisa sighed.
“I’ll try to get hold of them myself. In the meantime, you get some rest.”
“I will, captain. Right after I call Dracon.”
Warden Blanchard stepped out of his office so that Tony Dracon could talk to Elisa in private—an unusual measure for unusual circumstances. Elisa apprised him of the latest note.
“If you got a note, it may mean that my guys got one too,” he reasoned. “I’ll check with them and let you know.”
“I’ll get a few of my own boys over to the warehouse tonight, too,” he promised her.
“I don’t know if that’s such a good idea, Tony,” she countered. “I’m going to have full police back-up. I know you want to help, but I’ve seen too many situations involving your guys degenerate into something nobody likes. And it happens fast.”
“I’ll make sure that they’re clear on the concept, Elisa. And these aren’t going to be some street-runner stiffs, either. These are going to be my top men.”
She took a long, deep breath, knowing that there was no way she was going to talk him out of this. As if sensing her thoughts, he added, more seriously, “Remember, Elisa, Joey is my kid too. I’d never do anything that I thought would endanger him.”
“Tony, that’s all well and good. But…” She gave up. “Just make sure that they stay out of the way, OK? I have no problem if they want to observe and report back to you. But, for once, let the law handle it.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.” He was tempted to tack the endearment “sugar” onto his reply, but even he knew that this was neither the time nor the place.
Elisa retreated to her bedroom and prayed that sleep would come. She knew that tonight she needed to be, if not at her best, then in considerably better shape than she had been in for the past day or two.
The only interruption to her rest came early on, when Tony called her back and informed her that his lieutenants had indeed received the same message, this one stuck under someone’s car windshield wiper. As she had with the previous note he received, Elisa instructed him to tell his men to place the note in a plastic bag and turn it over to the 23rd Precinct forensics team.
As she slumbered, the small piece of paper with Goliath’s elegant handwriting on it, having been cast aside hours earlier by the leaver of the second, sinister note, lay crumpled among the bits of trash in the alley below.
Goliath landed heavily in the castle courtyard. He rolled a couple of times and thudded against the back wall. The others, assembled in the kitchen for a midnight meal, all heard what they knew to be a troubled landing.
Brooklyn was first to emerge from the great hall and view his wounded commander. “Goliath!” was his shocked cry as he ran over to him. “What the heck happened?”
Goliath lay on the stones, writhing in pain. He grimaced as he held his upper arm. Smears of blood on the stones marked his landing, his roll, and his contact with the wall. Broadway and Angela hurried out, followed closely by Lexington and Hudson, Bronx at his side. Angela gasped when she saw her injured father, and immediately ran back inside to fetch damp cloths and bandages. Broadway knelt on the other side of Goliath, and he and Brooklyn helped their leader up to a sitting position.
Whoever had attacked him had done a good job; that much was obvious. The skin on his chest and back was seared raw. He had large, oozing burn marks on his arms as well. His legs were lacerated, and there were several holes in his wings. His lower lip was swollen and cracked, and one eye was swollen shut.
The trio crouched around him, anxiously waiting for him to speak. When he did, it was through gasps of exhaustion and pain.
“Ambushed,” he said. “In the park. Waiting for Elisa.” He closed his other eye and shook his head. “Where is she?”
“Ambushed waiting for Elisa?” Lexington repeated as he and the two others looked at each other, perplexed.
“What did the ambushers look like?” Brooklyn encouraged.
Goliath leaned back against the wall with a grunt. “They were dark. Faces covered. Couldn’t see…” He winced again.
“How many were there?” Broadway asked.
“Couldn’t tell that either.” He regarded Broadway with his good eye. “At least four. Maybe more. Don’t know…” He coughed.
Angela came running back out, supplied with an armload of cloth strips, and set to work tending her father’s injuries. “Father, who did this?” she asked in a worried and slightly angry voice as she dabbed the open sores on his chest.
“Don’t…know…” he grimaced through the pain of having his wounds cleaned.
“At least four guys, he said,” Broadway informed her.
“It’s got to be the Quarrymen,” she and Brooklyn replied in unison.
“Unh!” Goliath caught Angela’s hand for a moment and held it. He wasn’t able to talk and endure her ministering at the same time. He looked around at his clan members. “I don’t know that either,” he gasped. “Their uniforms weren’t the same. Just dark clothing and ski masks. Not hoods. And no hammers. Just laser weapons.” He then nodded to Angela to continue her treatment of his injuries.
Broadway looked up at the others. “It sounds like Dracon’s men, then,” he said, recalling the night he teamed up with Elisa on the Silver Falcon case.
“Ye said that ye were going to meet Elisa,” Hudson said to Goliath in his soft brogue. “Was she there?”
Goliath looked at Angela, who stopped for a moment so he could answer. “No, I couldn’t find her. I thought that maybe they had her. I kept charging them, looking for her. I couldn’t find her…” He closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the wall.
Angela waited for him to continue. When he didn’t, she resumed cleaning his wounds, which brought a pained grimace back to his face.
Brooklyn shook his head. “That would explain the extent of these injuries, anyway,” he observed.
Lexington rose to his feet. “Guys,” he addressed Brooklyn, Broadway, and Hudson, “think we ought to go out on another run and see if we spot anything?”
“You bet, Lex,” Brooklyn replied.
“Will you be OK here?” Broadway asked Angela.
“Yes, but, Hudson, would you be able to stay here and give me a hand with Goliath?”
“Aye, lass,” Hudson replied, “if that meets with our second-in-command’s approval as well.”
“Definitely,” Brooklyn affirmed. He turned to his younger comrades. “Lex, Broadway, let’s go.”
“Good luck,” Angela said to them with uncharacteristic grimness. “Find some answers.”
The trio headed for the wall and were off.
“It sure would help if we knew what we were looking for,” Lexington sighed as the trio glided over the east side of lower Manhattan.
“We’ll start with Elisa,” Brooklyn suggested. “If we spot her, that’d be a big plus.”
“Yeah,” Broadway agreed. “At least we’d know she’s all right.”
They cruised in silence for a while, periodically remarking on something they saw below, or thought they saw. The lights below illuminated their features with a muted glow, highlighting the creases of concern on their brows and making each look years older.
Lexington spotted the car first, near one of the wharves, among a grouping of warehouses. “Eureka, guys,” he declared, pointing down to Elisa’s Fairlane. “Once again, we can thank the North Star that she doesn’t drive a dark-colored Camry.”
The trio banked downward, careful to stay out of sight. They landed lightly on the roof of a warehouse next to the one where Elisa’s car, and by now two NYPD squad cars, were parked. They crept over to the near edge of the roof and peered down, watching and listening.
“Detectives,” one of the arriving officers greeted Elisa and Matt.
“Hey, guys,” Elisa answered. Matt nodded.
“We got anything here?” another officer asked.
“Not yet,” Matt replied.
As he said this, Elisa was looking away, at the warehouse building. “Just a minute,” the gargoyles heard her say. She walked over to one of the doors on the side of the building and retrieved something small and white.
She trotted back to the group of law enforcement personnel, opening up the folded piece of paper. She read aloud.
“’”Your spot in the park.”’ That’s in quotes,” she explained. “’Thursday morning, 3AM. This time, come alone.’” She looked up at Matt.
“Why would that first part be in quotes?” he asked her.
Elisa thought for a moment. “I have a bad feeling about this,” she mused. “It may mean that they know where…”
Elisa grabbed his arm and pulled him toward the Fairlane. “Come on, we’ve gotta get going.”
“We’ll stick around for a while and keep an eye out,” one of the officers called after them as they got into Elisa’s car. “If anything else turns up, we’ll let you know.”
“Thanks,” Matt called out the window as they drove off.
Up on the warehouse roof, the trio looked at each other.
“’The park’?” Lexington repeated.
“After what happened tonight,” Broadway observed, “I don’t have all that great a feeling about this, either.”
Brooklyn was about to suggest that they follow Elisa and Matt when the three of them heard clicking noises behind them.
“All right, you three,” came a hoarse whisper. “Don’t move.”
They knew without looking that weapons were trained on them, and all three raised their hands a little, indicating that they were unarmed.
“Now turn around real slow.”
When they did, they immediately recognized Glasses and Pal Joey from Dracon’s gang. There were two other hoods with them. All four were armed with automatic weapons equipped with silencers.
“Awright,” Glasses hissed at them. “Tell us what you know.”
The three gargoyles threw each other confused glances. That wasn’t the sort of thing they were expecting to hear him say at the moment. This was not making sense.
“What?” Broadway and Brooklyn said in unison.
Lexington sneered at the four hoods. “You guys can bite me,” he snarled. “You’re the ones who know what’s going down here, and we can find all kinds of ways to make you tell us.”
Dracon’s thugs looked highly insulted.
“What kind of a bluff do you flying idiots call that?” Glasses growled. “Might I remind you that we have some fairly sophisticated weaponry aimed directly up your noses? I suggest you start talking. Now.”
Brooklyn held his arms out in a gesture of sincere confusion. “Let me get this straight,” he said to them. “You guys are asking us what’s happening because you really don’t know?”
“’Beak’ here catches on quick, don’t he?” Pal Joey wisecracked.
Brooklyn put his arms down and regarded the gunmen grimly. “Listen, fellas, I think all seven of us have the same problem here. Lots of questions, no answers.” The gunmen kept their aim on the three, but were starting to listen.
Lexington spoke up, addressing Dracon’s men. “I don’t get it,” he said. “If you aren’t involved in whatever just happened down there, then why are you here?”
“To get some answers, lizard,” was Glasses’ reply.
“Same as us,” Brooklyn observed calmly.
Glasses regarded Brooklyn warily. “So,” he challenged, “what kind of answers did you get?”
“None,” he replied with clear disappointment. “Just more questions.”
One of the unidentified thugs turned to Glasses. “I thought these guys weren’t going to be involved.”
“Says who?” Broadway growled.
Brooklyn immediately stuck out his hand in a request for quiet on his companions’ part.
The same thug turned to Brooklyn. “Who sent you here?” he asked.
None of the gargoyles was sure how best to answer that. Knowing that they lied very poorly, though, they defaulted to the truth.
“No one sent us,” Brooklyn replied.
“We just came out looking for information after Goliath came home beaten up, and hoped we’d find Elisa while we were at it,” Broadway added. His eyes began to glow, and his wings flared involuntarily. “And speaking of which,” he snarled, “what do you guys know about that?”
“About what?” Glasses asked, his eyes showing that he was now hoping to snag some juicy news.
“Oh, come on,” Broadway fumed, earning him some hurried shushing from his comrades as they peered over the edge of the roof to make sure that the lingering officers hadn’t heard them.
Brooklyn continued for him, more quietly. “Earlier tonight, Goliath came back from a meeting with Elisa in the park looking like he had been run through a blender. No Elisa, lots of goons wielding high-tech weapons, one hurting gargoyle. What’s the story with that?”
“We don’t know nothin’ about that,” Glasses sneered. A distinct lack of swagger in his voice as he said this gave the trio an odd feeling that he was telling the truth.
“My fine winged friend,” Pal Joey added, in a condescending tone, “we are businessmen. We have a company to run, and we don’t pester nobody who don’t get in our way.”
Lexington and Brooklyn rolled their eyes. Broadway just continued to glare.
“Unless your friend was interfering with our day-to-day operations somehow, we wouldn’t bother with him. It would be a waste of valuable resources.”
Brooklyn crossed his arms. “So did you guys have some ‘business’ going down in the park earlier tonight?”
“No, we did not.”
“Do we believe them?” Lexington asked his comrades.
“I don’t know,” Broadway replied. “But the one time Elisa and I had a run-in with guys all dressed in black and wearing ski masks, they were Dracon’s own men. So I’d say these guys still have a lot of explaining to do.”
The four thugs exchanged glances.
Glasses’ eyes narrowed. “What did you say they were wearing?” he asked.
“Goliath said that they were dressed in plain dark clothing and wore ski masks,” Lexington repeated.
The thugs looked at each other again. “Just like the guys at the loading dock,” one of them mumbled.
Hooray, Brooklyn thought. We’re finally getting somewhere.
“How many of them were there?” Glasses continued.
“At least four, he told us,” Brooklyn replied. “Maybe more.”
Glasses laid his weapon down on the gravelly surface of the roof. Following his lead, the other three thugs did the same.
“’Beak,’” he declared, “it appears you were absolutely right before when you said that all seven of us have the same problem.” His voice was suddenly void of all sarcasm, bravado, and mistrust.
It didn’t even sound like him anymore, the three gargoyles thought.
“I think,” he continued, “that we may have no choice but to work together on this.”
“But, Glasses,” his cohort repeated, “these guys weren’t supposed to be involved in this.”
Glasses turned to him. “If you recall,” he explained with eyebrows arched knowingly, “The boss told us that Maza was not bringing them in on this. He never gave us any specific orders himself to keep them out. And,” he added emphatically, “last time I looked, we do not take orders from one Detective Elisa Maza.”
The seven then sat down on the roof in a circle, and Tony Dracon’s men briefed Brooklyn, Broadway, and Lexington on the situation.
The entire situation.
When they were done, the sustained shock felt by the gargoyles hung in the air, a nearly palpable entity. Lexington’s large, luminous eyes were directed down at the gravelly surface upon which he sat. Broadway crouched with his head in his hands, gazing ahead. Brooklyn lay on his back, looking up at the few stars that shone through the canopy of artificial illumination cloaking Manhattan. All three were still and silent.
“So there you go,” Glasses concluded. “Your Detective Maza ain’t no saint.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Broadway insisted, his voice partially muffled by the hands supporting his head. “She’s still our Detective Maza” He lowered his hands and looked at Glasses. “She’s still our Elisa. Our friend.”
“You got that right, Broadway,” Brooklyn agreed, sitting up. “Our clan member. Our sister. There’s no question about that.” He looked at his two brothers. “The only question now is what we can do for her.”
“Whatever you guys do, two things,” Glasses warned them, pointing for emphasis. “Number one, stay outa our way. Number two, don’t let Maza know you’re involved.”
Lexington snorted. “For my own physical well-being,” he remarked sardonically, “I’d reverse the order of those two points. At any rate, though,” he added, growing more serious and addressing his fellow gargoyles, “these guys are right. We can’t let Elisa know that we’re in on this now.”
Brooklyn looked at his two comrades. “Are we also agreed, brothers,” he intoned, “that we do NOT tell Goliath about this?”
Broadway returned Brooklyn’s look. “I’ll spend the rest of my life as Demona’s house servant before I do that,” he replied with dead seriousness.
Lexington just groaned softly and lay back on the rooftop. “Don’t even say it, Brook,” he moaned. “Don’t even think it.”
Shortly thereafter, the trio took a cautiously cordial leave of their temporary allies. Glasses and the rest watched them glide off into the night, back toward mid-town.
“Is it just me,” one of Dracon’s men said, “or did life just get a whole lot weirder for us?”
There was a soft whirring from behind them as electronic weapons were charged.
“You don’t know the half of it,” a menacing voice said as the four whirled in horror to face their own assailants.
“OK, partner,” Matt said to Elisa as they drove away from the warehouse. “What’s the ‘park’ bit about?”
“Matt, Goliath and I have a…meeting place in Central Park,” Elisa explained. “We often hook up there on my break and get caught up, especially if we haven’t seen each other in a while.”
“Exactly.” She paused, biting her lower lip. “I don’t like the idea of anyone else knowing where that place is, and that’s the exact name we have for it, too—‘our spot in the park.’ Just as the note said.”
“It could just be a coincidence,” Matt offered, trying to be encouraging.
Elisa threw him a quick glance. “Bluestone, how many ‘coincidences’ do we see in our line of work?”
Matt sat back in his seat and stretched his legs out, knowing that he had been defeated in his effort to inject optimism into the situation at hand. Additionally, they both had on their minds the fact that the surveillance team that had been assigned to Elisa’s apartment the night before was still missing, car and all. “What do you think we should do?” he asked her.
“Well, right now I have to go back to the station and call Dracon. If we’re lucky, he’ll have something new for us. At the very least, he and I have been getting these notes at the same time. I’m hoping he may already have gotten a ‘tailored’ message as well.”
Matt looked at her. “Is he cooperating with you OK?” he asked, with concern in his voice.
“Funny you should mention that, Matt,” Elisa mused. “When I talked to him yesterday morning, he told me he was going to send some of his guys to the warehouse tonight. Needless to say, I wasn’t too pleased to hear that. But he insisted that they wouldn’t get involved, that they’d just observe.” She glanced at Matt. “And damned if they didn’t do just that, assuming they were even there at all.”
“So he might be sincere about all of this.”
“Who knows about all of it?” Elisa cautioned. “But he really does seem to be serious about his kid’s safety.”
At the station, Captain Chavez greeted Matt and Elisa with some relatively good news. The plainclothes officers working surveillance at Elisa’s apartment the previous night had been found. They had been beaten badly but were expected to make full recoveries. Their car was still missing.
“Well, thank goodness for that much,” Elisa replied, grateful to hear any positive news at all. “Did they say who assaulted them?”
“Just some individuals dressed in black, wearing ski masks. And Elisa,” the captain added, lowering her voice, “they also said that they saw Goliath stop by your window and leave a note.”
Elisa’s shoulders sagged a bit. “And I never got it,” she muttered. Matt and the captain both detected heartbreak in her tired voice. Elisa suddenly had a thought. Her eyes snapped up to Matt’s and the captain’s. “I wonder if whoever left the second note did.”
“Could that be how they know about ‘your spot in the park?’” Matt asked, raising his eyebrows.
“Oh, shit,” Elisa sighed with worry and frustration.
This segued into a briefing of Captain Chavez on the activities at the warehouse and the note found there.
“We’re just getting jerked around,” Elisa moaned. “Come here, go there, get another note… Won’t these guys ever do anything?”
“One of the most important things I learned in my years as a detective,” Captain Chavez assured her, “is that perps get bored too. Don’t worry. Things should start happening soon. Just be patient.”
“I’ll try, Captain,” Elisa replied with resignation. “Right now, I need to touch base with Dracon.”
“You can do that from here. Matt, let’s you and I go get a cuppa.”
“Right behind you, Captain,” Matt replied.
After they left, Elisa placed her call to Riker’s Island.
“Hey, Maza,” Tony greeted her sleepily.
“Hey, Dracon. Listen, I got another note tonight at the warehouse.”
“I know. Glasses was on the phone to me while he and a few other of my guys watched you pick it up. They were on the roof of the warehouse next door to that one.”
“Tony,” she said grudgingly, “I have to give credit where credit is due. I didn’t even know they were there.” She paused. “Thanks,” she added, a trace of humility in her voice.
“You’re welcome,” he replied simply.
Good grief, she thought. He didn’t even gloat. This thing must really be getting to him.
“So what did it say?” he asked. “He saw you reading it to the other cops there, but nobody could hear what you were saying.”
“It gave a meeting place and time for tonight.”
“In the park?” he quickly asked.
“Yeah,” Elisa replied. “Did you get the same note?”
“Sure did. Showed up on my boy Mikey’s windshield again. He called right before Glasses did. I’m wearing a path between my cell and Blanchard’s phone.” He described the meeting place the note gave. It was the same—although the description in his note, of course, was not as tersely self-explanatory as in hers. “The note also said that I needed to send my top operative, so Glasses gets the nod. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to send him alone, which is what these bastards want me to do.”
“Dracon, if you’re thinking of getting fancy on me now—“
“Relax, relax. I’ll just have surveillance on him. From a good distance away. With high-powered rifles.”
“I didn’t need to hear that.”
“Oh, and New York’s Finest isn’t going to be doing the same for you. Sure, Maza”
“That’s…” Oh, to hell with it, Elisa thought.
“You’re going to tell me that that’s different. No it’s not, Maza.” His voice was rising. “We may be in different businesses, but I feel the duty and the need to protect my people just like you do.”
“With the difference that, when your people become expendable, you act accordingly, Dracon,” she hissed angrily. “That’s a big difference, so don’t be heaping that ‘protect my people’ crap on me.” She began to voice her deeper concerns to him. “See, this is what makes me nervous about the involvement of you and your guys in this, in the first place. How do I know who becomes expendable to you when? Me, Glasses, any of your guys could get whacked next. By you, at your whim. Fine. What about Joey Shapiro, Dracon? When does he become expendable to you?”
In all the years Elisa had known Anthony Dracon, he had never, to her knowledge, truly lost his composure. His reaction to her last question, therefore, was both a shock and a revelation to her.
By the time he had finished screaming at her, he was practically in tears.
In a strange way, it made her feel better to know that this was such a raw nerve for him. Maybe she could count on him in this, after all.
She told him so. It seemed to calm him down.
“Don’t ever say anything like that again, Elisa,” he said, his voice still shaking. “Ever.”
“I won’t, Tony,” she replied quietly. “I promise.” And then, she surprised even herself. “I’m sorry,” she added.
Tony Dracon was silent for a moment. “I am too, Elisa,” he said softly. “And, listen,” he added, “I’m making sure that all of my guys know that we have a truce with you until this whole mess is taken care of. I hope that we have the same with your people.”
“I’ll make sure that everybody’s on the same page here too, but I can tell you right now that Joey’s safety is our number-one priority. As long as everybody’s in agreement on that, you can count on us, unbelievable though it may seem, to be squarely on your side.”
“You’ve got a deal,” he replied. “Now, I’m going back to my luxury accommodations and attractive roommate, and try to get some sleep tonight. If I get woken up by another phone call, I’m going to bang my head against the wall, if Brod doesn’t do it for me first.”
“Go ahead, Tony. Good night.”
“Good night, Elisa.”
Elisa was just starting to drift off to sleep when her phone rang.
She was immediately awake and concerned. “Hello?”
“Elisa, it’s Tony.”
Now she was nervous, too. “Tony, what’s up?”
“It looks like things are heating up. I just got another call from Glasses. He told me that after he and the guys observed your non-event at Weber Warehouse, they got roughed up pretty good by some goons in ski masks.”
Something pinged in Elisa’s memory. “Ski masks?”
“What else were they wearing, Tony? What did they look like?”
“Glasses said they were just dressed all in black. No Quarrymen logos, nothing.”
“We might be starting to get something here. There was a surveillance team at my place last night watching for note-leavers. They were beaten up by assailants dressed in black, wearing ski masks, too.”
Tony was silent for a moment. “It looks like we have a very busy crew on our hands all of a sudden, Elisa. While he was on the phone with me from the warehouse roof, Glasses told me that a few other of our guys got it from goons in ski masks at a lower east side loading dock earlier in the evening. I didn’t mention it to you the last time we talked because I just assumed that it was the usual static with the local neighborhood gangs. Now, however, it appears there might be a connection.” He paused, knowing that what followed would not be pleasant. “Elisa, Glasses told me something else in his last call. It appears one of your winged buddies got a working over in Central Park last night too.”
Elisa’s blood ran cold. “Which one?” she asked warily.
“The big one, I’m afraid. It must have been quite a fight, from what I heard.”
She grimaced and leaned her head on her fist, grasping a handful of her hair. Dammit, dammit, dammit, she thought. Why couldn’t I have gotten that note? Why couldn’t I have been there for him? And why couldn’t I have heard about this before sun-up?
“Did the same guys do it?” she muttered miserably, still grasping her hair.
“It sure looks like it. Glasses got it from a very reliable source that the hoods in the park were dressed the same as the ones who touched them up a little later. And another thing—these guys were armed with laser weapons in both situations.”
He knew enough to brace for impact at that point, and it came.
“Dracon, remind me to pull your ribcage apart and tear your fucking lungs out the next time I see you, OK? You know who we have to blame for this laser weapon shit, now DON’T WE?”
“Now, Maza, we don’t know for sure—“
“BULLSHIT, we don’t know for sure. Who sold those things out on the street when—“
“MAZA, IT COULD HAVE BEEN XANATOS HIMSELF!”
“BULLSHIT, DRACON; YOU’RE RESPONSIBLE!”
She was trembling with rage, and on the verge of tears. Her exhaustion wasn’t doing her any favors, either.
“Elisa,” Tony began calmly, “this isn’t getting either of us anywhere. We have to deal with the here and now.”
“Yeah, I know, I know,” Elisa said, trying to gain control of her own emotions. “But for God’s sake, this is a prime example of what your crap can do. Think about this the next time you sell your shit on the street.”
“Maza, come on. Focus. We have a job to do.”
She knew he was right. Her personal vendetta with him would have to wait for another time. And, for all she knew, these guys could have gotten their weapons from Xanatos, after all.
“Now,” he continued, “who do you know who routinely uses laser weapons?”
“I have a short list,” she growled.
“So do I. I’ll check mine, and you check yours.”
“You can be sure I will.”
“And, by the way, I wish I could tell you if Goliath was OK or what. I just don’t know.”
This conversation was becoming truly surreal to her. “I understand,” she muttered. “Thanks anyway. I’ll find out myself.”
A yawn overtook Tony Dracon. “Elisa,” he said wearily, “I’ve gotta go. I’ve got a whole half hour to get some shut-eye before they roust my ass for morning exercise, and I’m going to take advantage of it. But, listen. Never mind what I said earlier about getting more phone calls. If you find out anything else, don’t be afraid to call me, no matter what. I mean that.”
“I know, Tony. Thanks for your help.” A momentary pause. “Get some rest.”
He finally couldn’t resist. “Thanks, sugar.”
“Call me that once more and I’ll tell the parole board that you’re responsible for every unsolved crime in the New York metro area going back twenty years, from murders to hubcap thefts.”
Tony’s call had sent sleep to the devil for Elisa. She sat in bed and felt her stomach flip-flopping with worry about Goliath. How badly had he been injured? Would stone sleep erase the injuries, or were they more severe than that?
Under normal circumstances, she would go straight to the castle that evening, check on Goliath, and find out all she could.
But if she did, she’d have to tell him and the others about this case.
She had a thought.
She got back out of bed, got dressed, and headed out to the Eyrie Building. Since the gargoyles would be in stone sleep, she would be able to assess Goliath’s injuries while avoiding all conversation. And she knew that if she ran into Xanatos or Burnett, and they started asking questions, she’d be able to give them terse and uninformative answers, maybe just tell them that she was there to leave something for the clan; they wouldn’t care enough to press the issue.
It would at least give her enough peace of mind that she’d be able to sleep.
The normal workday was just beginning, and the morning rush-hour traffic slowed Elisa’s trip to the Eyrie Building considerably. As she walked toward the express elevator on the ground floor, she saw that the security guard was not the one who usually sat there. It was yet another reminder to her that she was usually sound asleep at this hour of the day. He scrutinized her security pass and allowed her entry.
The elevator doors opened into a dim and silent great hall of the Castle Wyvern. She assumed that the Xanatoses were stirring somewhere in their living quarters. Besides being early risers, they needed less sleep than most people, for which Elisa greatly envied them. But no activity was apparent to her as she walked through the great hall.
She hastily climbed the steps of the main turret to the first landing and looked out from the archway. She saw that Bronx, Hudson, Brooklyn, Angela, Broadway, and Lexington were all there, in their usual places, and felt reassured of that much, at least.
She resumed with deep apprehension her ascent of the turret steps, toward the commander’s post. Her heartbeat accelerated beyond the effect of the stair climb, and her footsteps echoed softly through the dark stone interior of the stairway as the shaft of daylight ahead of her grew brighter.
She stepped up into the overcast daylight and saw immediately that Goliath’s pedestal was unoccupied. She looked around. He was not atop the turret at all.
Fear coursed through her like an electric shock. She turned and ran back down the stairs, stumbling and nearly falling twice during her descent.
At the bottom of the stairs, she sprinted into the courtyard, stopped, and looked around. There he was, in a corner by the outside wall. In her haste to ascend the steps of the turret, she had simply overlooked him. He gazed out over the city, frozen in a contemplative pose. Her heart sank as she saw that numerous strips of white cloth had been wound around his appendages. She walked over to him and lightly fingered the ends of the cloth that was wrapped around one of his upper arms. Large patches of drying blood had soaked through his bandages. His stone surface had an odd rougher consistency on his chest and back, and there were similar variegations on his wings. His swollen lip and eye were readily apparent.
She looked more closely at his countenance, and realized that it was one not of contemplation, but of exhaustion.
“Who did this to you, big guy?” she murmured sadly to him. She felt sick with guilt that she wasn’t here for him before sunrise—and even sicker to know that, even if she had talked to Dracon in plenty of time, she still would not have come.
“Who did this to you?” she repeated in a whisper, tears coming to her eyes. She laid her head against Goliath’s stone shoulder for a few moments, kissed it softly, and turned to go.
When she returned home, she phoned Matt. After apologizing to him profusely for having awakened him, she told him what Dracon had relayed to her in his phone call, and what she had subsequently seen at the castle.
“Matt, I’m sick to my stomach over this,” she said miserably. “I’m convinced now that Goliath set up a meeting in that note I never got. The note was intercepted, and instead of meeting me in the park he met up with these hoods.”
“I hate to say it, partner,” Matt replied, “but I bet you’re right.”
“Matt, I…I don’t know what to do. I can’t avoid those guys much longer. And God knows I need to see Goliath, about this, at least. Maybe I have no alternative but to bring them into this,” she sighed in an exhausted and despairing voice.
“There’s still something we can try,” Matt suggested. “Let me go over to the castle this evening after sundown, before I go to the station. I can check on the guys for you and tell them that you were suddenly called onto an undercover case, and that you’ll contact them when you’re able to, whenever that may be. I can also get all the details on what happened to Goliath.”
Elisa thought for a moment. “Matt?”
“I love you, man.”
Matt chuckled. “No problem, Elisa. Now let’s both try to get some sleep.”
As Goliath awoke with a healthy roar, he sensed someone standing behind him.
He whirled around, and was not able to conceal his disappointment to see Matt Bluestone standing there instead of Elisa.
“Good evening, Detective,” he said gallantly, recovering.
“Hi, Goliath.” Matt walked over to him as he flexed and stretched his back and shoulder muscles. He uneasily regarded the masses of bandages covering a large portion of the gargoyle’s skin. “You OK?” he asked.
“Apart from a bit of residual stiffness, yes.” Goliath began to remove the now-unneeded bandages.
The other clan members glided down from their daytime perches on the turret’s first landing, alighting in a semi-circle around their leader. They all echoed Matt’s question regarding his welfare, with considerably more anxiety. He assured them that his wounds of the previous night were healed, and that a decent breakfast would do him, and them, the most good at the moment. They willingly headed for the kitchen to do his bidding, with Bronx bringing up the rear. Matt watched the guard beast’s wagging tail disappear through the doorway into the great hall, and he and Goliath were once again alone in the courtyard.
Before Matt could ask the clan leader what had happened to precipitate the aforementioned wounds, Goliath asked his own question. “Do you have news of Elisa?” He chose not to allow Matt to see his eyes as he spoke.
“Yes, I do,” Matt replied. “In short, she’s fine, she sends her regards, and she won’t be able to see you for a while.”
Goliath now turned his eyes on Matt. They held a cautiously veiled combination of relief, worry, annoyance, and frustration. “Why not?” he asked.
“Another undercover situation came up last week without warning,” Matt replied coolly. “For your sake as well as hers, I can’t tell you anything about it. But she’s all right.” He paused. “And she misses you.”
It made Goliath feel both better and worse to hear that. He turned and looked out over the city, longing to know where in its expanses she was. “I miss her too,” he said softly.
He resumed removing the bandages from his upper arms.
“Uh,” Matt began. Goliath looked at him. Matt pointed at the bandages. “Want to tell me about this?” he asked.
“I was ambushed in the park last night,” Goliath explained as he unwound a strip of cloth. “I had left a note for Elisa to meet me, but some unknown enemies met me instead. It worries me; it makes me wonder if these enemies intercepted the note.” He looked up at Matt as he rewound the used bandage around his talons, readying it for disposal. “But I’m very glad to learn of Elisa’s assignment. My greatest fear was that my attackers were holding her, and that I had failed to rescue her.”
“Don’t worry,” Matt assured him. “She was nowhere near the park last night, that much I can tell you.”
Goliath began to remove the bandages from one of his legs. He recounted how, rather than meeting with Elisa at the appointed time and place in Central Park, he had been greeted by four, maybe five dark-clad, ski-masked figures wielding laser weapons. They had said very little other than to refer to him as a “monster” (which did nothing to narrow the list of suspects), and had opened fire on him. He gave them ample opportunity to injure him by repeatedly charging them, trying to determine if they had his best friend in their custody.
He thought for a moment. “It’s evident to me now,” he mused, “that their objective was merely to injure, rather than annihilate, me. Their weapons were on lower settings, and half the time they simply hit me with them.”
“Was there anything else noticeable about these guys?” Matt asked. “Anything unusual? Anything stand out at all?”
“They were remarkable,” Goliath replied, “only in their lack of distinguishing features.” He wound up another strip of cloth. “There were no emblems on their clothing. There was nothing unusual about their weaponry apart from its electronic nature. Only two of them spoke, and their voices did not sound familiar.”
“They didn’t call each other by name or anything?”
“No foreign accents or speech impediments?”
“None that I could detect.” Goliath paused and looked at Matt. “Perhaps that’s something for you, Matt,” he said. “They sounded exactly like all the other natives of this area. That at least tells us that they’re from around here.”
Matt ran a hand through his hair. “Well, unfortunately there are only a few million people who fit that speech description.” He shrugged. “It’s better than nothing, I suppose.”
Goliath once again seemed lost in his thoughts as he removed the bandages from his other leg.
“Listen,” Matt said, “I’ve got to get going. If anything else happens, give me a call on my direct line at the station. In the meantime, we’ll try to figure out who attacked you last night.”
“Thank you, Detective,” Goliath replied. Then he asked, “Are you in contact with Elisa?”
“From time to time.”
Goliath looked at him. “Tell her…” He looked away, back out over the city.
Matt suddenly felt a pang of sympathy for the helpless giant. “What, Goliath?” he encouraged.
“Nothing,” Goliath replied, resuming the removal of his bandages. “Tell her I look forward to seeing her when she’s free.”
“Will do,” Matt said quietly. “Talk to you soon,” he said as he turned to go.
As Matt walked back through the great hall toward the elevator, he heard a furtive whisper.
He looked, and saw Brooklyn peering at him from a doorway on the far end of the hall. The gargoyle motioned emphatically for him to come nearer.
“What’s up, Brook?” he asked.
“Sssh!” Brooklyn hushed him. “We have to talk, and we can’t let Goliath hear us.”
They ended up in the underground parking garage of the Eyrie Building, where Brooklyn recounted everything that had happened the previous night, including all of what Dracon’s men had told him and his comrades. They both knew that Elisa would not be pleased about the trio knowing the details of this case as well, but the unspoken understanding was that her secrets were entirely safe with them. The real problem at hand involved bringing these mysterious dark-clad criminals to justice before any more harm was done to anyone, particularly to the boy in their custody.
“So Glasses and his guys said that these goons hit three of Dracon’s other men while they were unloading hot electronic goods on the lower east side,” Brooklyn informed Matt.
“Oh, so that’s what they were doing at the loading dock, eh?” Matt remarked.
“You know about this?”
“Elisa talked to Dracon early this morning,” the detective explained. “He told her about the guys at the loading dock, and about Goliath. That’s why I’m here with the undercover story for him. She stopped by here in the morning, while you all were in stone sleep. She wanted to see Goliath without him seeing her, and without having to give him a bunch of explanations that none of us want to give him.”
“Brother, you can say that again,” Brooklyn agreed.
“She called me afterward—poor kid; I’ve never heard her so upset—and I told her that I’d cover for her and get some information here this evening.”
“I’m sorry we weren’t able to give you more.”
“Don’t worry about it, Brook. At least I can tell Elisa that Goliath is all right. And now I know that you, Broadway and Lexington are in on this too. But there’s one more thing I have to tell you. Right after the three of you left the warehouse last night, Glasses and his guys had their own run-in with these masked assailants. Do you know anything about that?”
Brooklyn gaped. “Are you kidding me? The same ones?”
“Whether they were the same perpetrators or just members of the same group, we don’t know, but we’re sure they’re at least working together. Same dress, same weapons, same MO—don’t kill the victims, just beat them senseless. Message assaults, in other words.”
Brooklyn frowned and clenched his fists, and his eyes glowed white. “Well, we got the message that somebody messed with our leader, and if we get hold of them ourselves, they’re going to be awfully sorry they did. Period.”
“Do you remember seeing or hearing anything at the warehouse?”
The glow left Brooklyn’s eyes. “No, I don’t, and I doubt the others did, either. They would have said something right away. I’ll ask them, though, just to make sure.”
“Hey, and, Matt, can you let us know if you find out anything?”
Matt was silent for a moment. “Now that you know what’s going on,” he replied, “you also know what a mess we all have on our hands. And I do mean all of us—you, me, Elisa, Goliath, Dracon, his whole organization, our whole organization… It doesn’t help you guys in the least that we have a lot of outside agencies working on this case, particularly the FBI. So far, we’ve been able to keep the gargoyle angle pretty well under wraps, and the few outside personnel who do know about it are either sympathetic or think it just proves that the kidnappers are dangerous crackpots. No matter how we slice it, though, a little knowledge in this matter can hurt as well as help, and I need to figure out which it will do before I dole it out—that is, assuming I even can figure it out.”
Brooklyn looked hurt, but nodded understandingly. “I don’t know what to do myself, Matt. I’m sure we can’t keep this from Goliath forever. He’s way too smart. But it’d just seem…unnatural for us to stand back and do nothing. I mean, for Pete’s sake, Elisa’s our friend. More than that. She’s a clan member. Our sister.” Matt was touched by Brooklyn’s earnestness. “And, believe me,” Brooklyn continued, “this whole thing has been killing Goliath—apart from almost literally, last night.”
“I know, Brook. I could tell when I talked to him. Hopefully this undercover story will calm him down for a while, maybe for long enough for us to get this thing wrapped up without him knowing anything that would only hurt him.”
Brooklyn crossed his arms and thought for a moment. Then he frowned and shook his head. “Man,” he muttered. He looked at the red-haired detective. “Tony Dracon. Can you believe it?”
“Brook, nobody’s perfect,” Matt replied. “Not even Elisa. And everybody makes mistakes, especially when they’re young.”
Brooklyn hung his head, knowing that what Matt was saying was nothing but true.
“Elisa may be an extraordinary person,” Matt continued, “but she’s also a real, honest-to-goodness flesh-and-blood woman.”
“And, after all, maybe that’s one of the reasons we like her so much,” Matt concluded.
Brooklyn looked up at him and smiled. “Yeah,” he said. “You’re right.” He grew more serious. “Matt, if you don’t keep us in the loop on this, I’ll understand, and I’m sure that Broadway and Lexington will too. But I hope you do. And, in the meantime, if we come up with anything ourselves, we’ll let you know right away.”
“Thanks, Brook. You guys are great. I mean that.”
“Hey,” Brooklyn shrugged. “We all have our own reasons to fight on Elisa’s behalf, don’t we?”
“Yes, Brooklyn. We do.” Matt unlocked his car door, then looked up at his gargoyle comrade. “Brook, if I do have anything for you, how do I reach you?”
“Xanatos has designated the phone in the great room as our own private line.” He recited the number for him. Matt pulled his notepad from his coat pocket and wrote it down. “The only problem,” Brooklyn added, “is that, so far, nobody’s called us on it except Elisa. That means that, when it rings, Goliath jumps for it, so you’ll probably get him on the line first. You’ll have to come up with some story for him to put him off the trail before you can talk to me.”
“I’ll tell him I’ve got an in to a Rangers game for you or something.”
“That’ll work fine.”
Matt opened the door of his car and got in. “I’ll be in touch, Brook. You guys be careful, and keep your eyes and ears open.”
“We always do.”
Brooklyn stood and watched his ally drive up the parking garage ramp and out into the evening.
As he crawled through the evening rush hour traffic to the station, Matt found himself longing for his simpler days at the FBI, when his only concern was unraveling the Byzantine mysteries of the Illuminati.
Jake Lasky groaned, lay back on the couch, and gingerly held a plastic bag full of ice against the large welt on his cheek that, although administered the night before, still throbbed. Who in flaming blue hell, he wondered, would have the nerve to ambush Glasses and his right-hand men, of all people? And why on earth hadn’t their mystery dates finished them off last night? These guys were armed to the teeth with state-of-the-art laser weapons. They had quietly marched the four of them—Glasses, Pal Joey, Lou, and him—down from the roof and through the alleys to another warehouse, far enough away from where the remaining cops were, and had done nothing more than beat the living crap out of them. It would have been easier and quieter just to have taken their heads off with the laser rifles. They were obviously sending Dracon a message by doing this.
Glasses had looked like a piece of road kill, but he had assured the others that he’d get word about this latest assault to Dracon himself. All four of them had gone their separate ways after the black-dressed goons had departed, intending to lay low for day or two and recover and tend their wounds.
After arriving home, Jake had slept for most of the day. What he needed right now, he determined, was the remedy he had used early that morning, when he first got home—a couple of shots of bourbon, as well as a lot of ice, the latter applied directly to his head.
As he felt the cold soothe his facial injuries, he decided that two ice bags would feel even better, and headed back to the kitchen. As he passed the television, he grabbed the remote on top of it and zapped it on. While he opened the freezer and started filling another plastic bag with ice, the television screen flickered to life.
“…don’t know, but gargoyles are suspected,” came the voice of the on-screen speaker.
“Esteban, are more community groups mobilizing in light of these latest developments?” asked an unseen female news reporter.
“You don’t know the half of it!”
Son of a...
Loose ice cubes clattered across the kitchen floor as Jake scrambled back out to the living room to look at the television screen.
By that time, the screen was showing one of the anchor people sitting at the set in the news program’s studio.
“In other state news,” he was reading, “a community group in Buffalo…”
Jake was already on the phone. When the number he had called answered, he was immediately disappointed to hear a recording of Glasses’ voice, telling him he had reached the number he had just dialed (“Real informative, Glasses.”) and instructing him to leave a message.
“Glasses, this is Jake. Something funny just happened…”
After leaving the message for Glasses, Jake began to think about his dilemma. He absently walked back into the kitchen, closed the still-ajar freezer, and kicked a few of the fallen ice cubes across the linoleum floor. Glasses was the one to whom Jake reported directly, but who knew when he’d get the message? He could tell Pal Joey and Lou, but their hands were tied without Glasses in on this, too. Should he call Dracon directly? What if this was just his mind playing tricks on him after getting a good rattling last night? Dracon would have him dismembered for bothering him for nothing.
The others in on this were, of course, the three gargoyles they had talked to last night right before the welcome party had shown up, and Detective Maza. Assuming that he could even get hold of the gargoyles somehow, he didn’t relish the thought of talking to them again. Apart from the fact that their conversation on the warehouse roof had been the only face-to-face encounter with them from which he had ever come away without painful injuries, they simply gave him the creeps, and he had pretty much OD’d on creeps at that point.
He could, of course, just sit tight and wait for Glasses to get the message, and do nothing more until then. And in the meantime, God only knew what was happening to Dracon’s kid.
Jake went back out to the living room, pulled his jacket on, and set out to find a sufficiently obscure pay phone in a different neighborhood.
Matt returned to the station to find a very animated Detective Elisa Maza on the phone. “No, Jake,” she was saying, “this is great. Potentially huge. How sure are you that this was his voice?” When she spotted Matt, a shadow crossed her features.
Matt watched her as she listened to the speaker on the other end of the line for a moment, her eyes wide. “Terrific. Are you sure about the name?” Pause, with a quick note scribbled on a piece of paper. “And you didn’t hear anything else from that interview?” Pause. “Well, I’m sure that we can get a tape from the studio. What channel was it on?” Pause, with another quick note scribbled—accompanied by a wince. “Jake…Jake, thank you. This is great. You did the right thing by calling me, believe me. I’ll get word to Dracon myself.” Pause. “All right, Jake. Thanks again. Good night.”
As she hung up the phone, Matt approached her. “Do we have something?” he asked with growing anticipation.
Elisa looked at him, her face full of concern. “First tell me how he is, Matt,” she insisted. “Please.”
Elisa exhaled, and absently turned her gaze to the top of her desk. “How fine is ‘fine’?”
“He’s a little sore, but a day’s sleep took care of his injuries. And, as far as I could tell, he bought the undercover stuff. No guarantees, though,” he warned, “about how long we can keep him in the dark like this. He’s bound to figure things out sooner or later.” Matt paused for a moment. “He sends his regards, too,” he added.
Elisa’s weary expression didn’t change.
“Now,” Matt continued, “do you have something there that can help us wrap this mess up sooner rather than later?”
“We might,” she replied, rallying. “Let’s go see the captain.”
He followed her into the captain’s office. Maria Chavez looked up from the paperwork on her desk. When she saw the expression on Elisa’s face, her eyebrows rose. “You found something,” she said.
“Possibly,” Elisa replied, sitting in one of the chairs in front of the captain’s desk. Matt sat down in the other, waiting to be briefed as well. “I just got a call from one of Dracon’s men, named Jake. He was one of the guys assaulted last night at the warehouse. Now, get this—one of the assailants said something to them, and Jake swears up and down that he heard the same guy say the same thing on the news this evening, on TV. He even caught a name—‘Esteban.’”
“What was it that he said?” the captain asked.
“Something like, ‘you don’t know the half of it.’ The guy said it to Dracon’s boys in reply to a question, just like on the news.”
“What was the context on the news?” Matt asked.
“Here’s where it gets dicey,” Elisa warned. “He doesn’t really know; it was at the tail end of a story. He heard it just as he was turning the TV on. He’s pretty sure the story mentioned gargoyles, and the question itself had something to do with groups mobilizing. I’d bet anything that this is a Quarrymen issue, but it’d be good to see the whole story and be certain, especially since we have no real evidence of Quarrymen involvement yet, and we all know that they usually aren’t this bashful about identifying themselves as such when they pull jobs. Now, theoretically, we could just get a videotape of the broadcast from the station. Unfortunately, the station Jake heard this on is owned by Pack Media.”
Matt and the Captain rolled their eyes.
“Yeah,” Elisa continued. “No friends of ours. I’m still ticked off myself over the last time we tried to get information from them, and they demanded warrants, written requests, all that jazz. I can’t imagine us getting anywhere with the Pack Media people now without having to go straight to David Xanatos.”
“Let me handle that,” Matt suggested. “No offense, partner, but he might be a little more receptive to me, especially if you’re feeling edgy to begin with.”
“No offense taken, Matt,” Elisa replied. “I appreciate it. The only trouble is, I have no idea what kind of time frame we’re working with, other than getting Joey home as soon as possible.”
“Maybe you’ll find that out at the park later tonight,” the captain suggested.
“Boy, wouldn’t that be nice,” Elisa said to both of them, her frustration evident in her voice.
“Of course,” the captain added, “we can also just ask around the station here, have people call family and friends, to see if anybody watched this broadcast and recalls seeing this item, and any more details about it. I can take care of that myself. In the meantime, how many ‘Estebans’ do either of you know who might be involved in a kidnapping?”
Matt and Elisa glanced at each other and shrugged. “I can think of a couple who might be in trouble with the law, at any rate,” Elisa said.
“Start tracking them down,” the captain told them.
“I’m sorry, Detective,” David Xanatos said, leaning casually against his desk. As usual, he was smooth without being unctuous. He seemed completely sincere and believable, which was precisely what made him so dangerous. “If I were to order my people at Pack Media to turn a tape over to you, I’d be end-running a plethora of procedural safeguards that both the studio and I have set in place ourselves. Without getting into too much legalese that neither of us has any patience for, I’d be doing great damage to both the studio and myself by ignoring all those safeguards and doing what you ask of me.”
As he stood regarding his sometime-ally, sometime-adversary, Matt frowned and cocked his head to indicate his growing annoyance.
Xanatos turned and walked back around his desk. As he spoke, he punctuated what he said with an upheld index finger. “Now, mind you,” he explained, “these safeguards ultimately do not preclude you and Detective Maza from obtaining a tape of this broadcast. They’ll just lengthen the time it takes for you to receive the tape.”
Matt crossed his arms. “How long will it take, David?” he asked.
“Oh,” Xanatos replied, gesturing with a wave of his arm, “a week, maybe two, tops.”
“I don’t think we can wait that long,” Matt countered. “I’m going to have to get to work on a warrant for the tape.”
“Understood, Detective,” Xanatos said—then smiled wryly.
“What’s so funny?” Matt asked him, a bit defensive. He was suddenly glad he had volunteered for this meeting; he knew Elisa would have put her fist through the guy’s face at this point.
“I’m wondering why we should even bother going through all this nonsense when Detective Maza will undoubtedly have one or more of the gargoyles go and tear a hole in the wall at Pack Media tonight and simply appropriate a tape in no time flat.”
Uh oh, Matt thought. Need-to-know basis…
David Xanatos was far too bright not to pick up on such an uncharacteristically timed silence on the part of Matt Bluestone.
Xanatos’s smile disappeared. “She hasn’t involved them in this,” he correctly guessed.
“David, this is partially undercover at this point. She can’t get them involved. Technically, you shouldn’t be, either. I’ve come to you out of sheer necessity. And I can’t tell you anything more.”
“I see,” Xanatos nodded. “This conversation never happened, did it?”
“What conversation?” Matt replied as he walked toward the door of the office. “Thanks again for seeing me on such short notice, David,” he added as he exited.
“Glad to do it, Matt,” Xanatos smiled, and closed the door behind him.
Xanatos waited for a moment to make sure Matt was gone, then picked up the phone and hit the speed dial for the chief news producer at Pack Media Studios. “Hi, Jim,” he said. “David here. Fine, fine. How’s by you? Good. Listen, can you messenger a video of this evening’s early news broadcast over to me? Yeah, the five o’clock. I need to check something on it. No, there’s no problem. For my own reference. Yeah. Great! Thanks.”
I wonder, he thought after he hung up, if I can figure out what they wanted to see on this broadcast.
Elisa stood on the path in her familiar, special little area of Central Park. She looked over into the trees and bushes that had concealed her and Goliath on many an occasion as they met and talked and simply spent time in each other’s company. Now she was tired, impatient, and deeply offended that insects like these kidnappers would dare to defile what had become for her one of the most sacred places on earth. Under these circumstances, she didn’t even want to set foot in the wooded sanctuary. They can talk to me out here, she thought, damn them all to hell. Anywhere but in there.
Even though, in her mind, Goliath was the last person in the world she wanted to see at the moment, her heart ached to have him there with her. She had no strength left to face this night; she needed his. His deep, granite-melting voice flowed through her memory, telling her that he’d always be there for her.
She had never felt so alone in her life.
Maybe she should bring him into this, she thought.
Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted a solitary approaching figure. It was Glasses. He had his hands in his pockets and, like her, his jacket collar turned up against the cold. Elisa noticed, even from that distance, a fair number of bruises and scrapes on his face.
Dracon wasn’t kidding, she thought, when he said that these guys got touched up.
Glasses glared at her as he approached, and she glared back. Next time I think I’m out on a really shitty call, she thought, somebody remind me of this one.
Glasses came up to her. “I think,” he snarled, “that you and I are probably equally happy to be here.”
“Yeah, Glasses,” she replied, her voice dripping with sarcasm. “We’ve got a real joyfest happening here.”
They turned away from each other and looked around.
“Anybody else here?” he asked.
She would have loved to have made some smart-alecky comment about his own personal SWAT team hiding behind the trees, but didn’t dare, for fear that their adversaries would overhear it. “I haven’t seen or heard anyone so far,” she replied.
They stood in silence for a few minutes, eyeing their surroundings. Then they heard a noise from within the wooded area nearby.
“Show me that you’re unarmed,” a male voice said quietly to them from somewhere among the trees.
Glasses and Elisa turned toward the voice and held their jackets open.
“Now come in here,” the voice said.
“You come out here,” Elisa snarled.
“Come in here,” the voice insisted.
Glasses held his ground as well. “Let’s see you first,” he challenged.
The voice grew impatient. “You two don’t seem to understand,” it said. “You are in no position to make any kind of demands whatsoever. We have a young boy in our custody whom we will not hesitate to maim or kill if we get anything less than full cooperation from you two and your associates. Now get in here.”
Elisa knew from her earlier conversation with Jake that there were advantages to hearing these mysterious foes talk. “How do we know,” she stalled, “that you’re not just going to grab us in there, put bullets in the backs of our heads, and leave us?”
“Because that doesn’t get us what we want, now does it? The gargoyle and Tony Dracon’s business. Now move.”
Glasses looked at Elisa, still glaring. She looked back at him and shrugged. “Let’s get this over with,” she said.
“The detective shows eminent sense,” the voice said as the two of them walked past the bushes into the woods. Elisa led the way. She could find her way through this vegetation in her sleep. Sure enough, standing exactly where she would normally expect to see Goliath was a figure dressed entirely in black, wearing a ski mask.
You goddamned filthy bastard, she thought as she walked toward him. Remind me to rip your colon out through your nostril and strangle you with it when this whole thing is over.
“Hey, I’m curious,” she said to the figure with affected jovialness. “This is a big park. There are a thousand secluded spots in it. Why’d you pick this one?”
“You can answer that question as well as I can, Detective,” the figure hissed. “Please don’t play games with us. We are not patient people, and a young boy’s life hangs in the balance.”
Maybe I won’t be able to wait to tear this creep’s entrails out, Elisa thought.
“Fine,” Glasses groused. “Tell us the deal and let’s all get out of here.”
“Lamont Enterprises warehouse. Saturday, early morning, at the same time. Three AM. We will effect the exchange there. And we do mean two nights from this one. This gives you a full forty-eight hours to prepare, so we really don’t want to hear any excuses. And, believe me, neither does Joey.”
“This is so lame,” Glasses complained. “Maza can bring her monster, but how are we supposed to hand over Dracon’s operations to you?”
“Just bring all your, shall we say, regional directors, to brief their replacements.”
“And I’m to bring ‘the gargoyle of my choice,’” Elisa said.
“That’s right, Detective.”
Even though she felt able to guess her foe’s thoughts at this point, she wanted to be certain about one thing. “I’m sure that you have your own ideas on that,” she said to the masked figure. “If you want to put in a nomination, this is your chance.”
“Detective, I believe you know quite well that we’ve already done that.” His face may have been hidden, but his smile was clearly evident in his voice. “After all, look where we’re standing.”
Well, Elisa thought, there’s our smoking gun on that issue. Who knows what else these guys know?
She decided that there was no way in heaven, on earth, or in hell she was dragging Goliath into this.
“I have nothing further to say,” the figure continued. “Do either of you have any questions?”
“No,” Glasses snarled.
Elisa shook her head.
“Until two days from now, then,” the figure said. “Nighty-night!”
As he said this, both Elisa and Glasses were struck sharply on the backs of their heads by the figure’s unseen cohorts. By the time they came to, their assailants were long gone.
“I’m getting a little tired of this,” Glasses grunted, holding the injured base of his skull.
Elisa sat up, also with her hand to the back of her head. She shook off her own cobwebs, then stood up. “Come on,” she said to Glasses as he got to his feet beside her. “Let’s get back out in the open.”
When they reached the path, Elisa grabbed his sleeve. “Let’s get away from here and chat for a minute.”
“Sounds good, Detective,” he replied, “as long as you don’t take me somewhere and bust up all the parts that those fuckers missed.”
“Don’t worry, Glasses,” she replied to him sardonically. “I believe in business before pleasure.”
“Nice,” he replied tersely.
When they were in sight of Dracon’s limo, which had brought Glasses to the park, Elisa stopped him.
“OK, Glasses. Did you recognize the guy’s voice?” she asked him.
“Then we can assume that this was not the ‘Esteban’ that Jake was talking about?”
“That’s right. This wasn’t the guy.”
“Too bad. Now, listen, Glasses. My colleagues and I are no fans of the Dracon syndicate, but I’m telling you right now, you are not bringing your lieutenants to this meeting like that SOB wants you to. Got that?”
“Of course, Maza. Do you really think I’m that stupid? I’m sure I had the same thoughts of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre back there that you did. Don’t worry.” He looked at her with a wry smile. “It’s kinda touching to hear you say it, though.”
“Save it, Glasses.” Elisa was running out of patience with everyone and everything at this point.
Glasses was once again serious. “You aren’t going to bring your pal either, are you?” he asked her.
“Only if it looks like there’s no alternative, and I’m nowhere near running out of alternatives yet,” she replied.
“Oughta be interesting when we both show up and don’t deliver,” Glasses said with uncharacteristic gravity.
“It’d make life a whole lot easier if we can find Joey before that happens, Glasses,” Elisa said dourly.
“How are we going to do that?” Glasses was looking away, past her, and directing the question as much to himself as to her.
“We’re rounding up all the ‘Estebans’ we can think of who might be in questionable standing with the law. It helps that we have as much time as that pig back there said we did. When we interview them, we’re going to have Jake listen in, unseen, and try to ID a voice for us. You and the other guys probably should come down to the station too.”
“I’ll think about that.”
“Stay in touch with Jake. He’ll be in touch with us, and we’ll let him know when he needs to come in. After all,” she sneered, “I don’t suppose you’re going to give me your cell phone number.”
“My cell phone was one of last night’s casualties, Detective. Smashed to pieces.” He smiled at her. “Guess I’ll just have to steal me a new one.”
“Just what I need right now. Another asshole.”
Glasses chuckled. “Well, I need to go get in touch with the boss ASAP,” he explained. “We may see you at the station over the next day or two.”
“That’s fine. And if you can think of any Estebans we should be questioning, let us know.”
“We’ll let you know, Detective. Where to find the bodies, that is.”
“I’m warning you, Glasses,” she growled.
“Later, Detective,” he said as he started walking toward the limo.
Elisa stood and watched him depart.
Brooklyn’s ears twitched when the phone rang, and he looked up from his bowl of chili.
Goliath didn’t see his reaction; he had already jumped up from the kitchen table and was headed for the phone.
“Elisa? Oh, hello, Matt,” Brooklyn heard him say into the receiver.
Geez, guys, let’s get this over with, Brooklyn thought. I can’t take hearing that tone in his voice much longer.
“How is she? Good.” He paused, listening. “Yes. Just a moment.”
Goliath returned to the kitchen, vestiges of disappointment on his countenance. “Matt Bluestone for you, Brooklyn. He wants to talk to you about going to a hockey game.”
“Cool!” Brooklyn smiled as he got up.
Lexington and Broadway threw each other a surreptitious glance without entertaining any serious hopes that their wordless exchange would go unnoticed by Goliath. When they saw him giving them a quizzical look, Lexington explained that they were hoping to go along to the game as well.
“Hockey,” Goliath mumbled, turning his attention back to his own meal, at which he was merely picking.
“Hey, Matt, we going to see the Rangers?” Brooklyn piped happily into the receiver.
“Sure looks like it, Brook,” Matt replied to him. “I’ll do all the talking, so you don’t have to say anything and be overheard. Elisa and Glasses met with one of the thugs last night in Central Park, and he gave them what we think is the final set of instructions. Two nights from now, at 3 AM, everything’s going down at Lamont Enterprises warehouse on the lower east side. Do you know where that is?”
“We’ll find it.”
“Good. According to this bum, Glasses is supposed to bring all of Dracon’s top operatives, and Elisa is supposed to bring her gargoyle—and they made it crystal clear to her which one they want, and which one they expect her to bring.”
“Don’t tell me, let me guess,” Brooklyn began. “Uh… the Rangers are going to be playing the guys who wear those purple uniforms, right?”
Matt chuckled. “You’re not bad at this, Brook. Anyway, Dracon has no intention of sending all his top guys to this meeting. Sanitation would be hosing those docks down for a week, if you get my drift. And Elisa still doesn’t want to bring Goliath into this mess. So, I’m thinking that if you, Lex, and Broadway feel like getting your hands dirty, you might want to show up yourselves. Three gargoyles would be better than one all the way around, and you guys might help us finally end this thing, so that everybody can just go home and live happily ever after.”
“Matt,” Brooklyn replied heartily, “that’s excellent. I’m really looking forward to this.”
“So am I, Brook. The only thing is, you have to remember that the fact that they’ll be holding Joey makes this operation a lot more delicate. Don’t forget that his safety is paramount at all times.”
“All right then, that’s it. Do you have any questions? Do you need any more information?”
“No, I think that’s all we need. See you then.”
Brooklyn fairly bounced back into the kitchen. “Matt’s getting all three of us into a Rangers game,” he announced gleefully to Broadway and Lexington.
Their eyes widened.
“Great!” Broadway exclaimed.
“When?” Lexington asked.
“Saturday night,” Brooklyn answered, not missing a beat. He’d have plenty of opportunity to fill them in on the actual schedule the next time they went out on patrol.
He then looked at his commander. “Is that OK, Goliath?” he asked.
Still picking at his food, the taciturn giant nodded his assent.
Broadway turned to Angela and covered her hand with his. “Do you mind?” he asked her.
“No, not at all,” she replied cheerfully, taking his hand in hers. “You’ll be back in plenty of time for us to do something together later that night. You boys go and have a good time.”
Broadway smiled warmly at her. “Thanks, Angela.”
She smiled back. “Just see if you can get me a picture of Wayne Gretzky, OK?”
All present turned to look at her.
“So?” she said defensively.
After a day-long city-wide dragnet that rounded up the three Estebans that Matt and Elisa were able to identify as suspects, interrogations had taken place, and been concluded, in a little less than an hour.
Matt and Elisa hurried into the adjoining room where Jake, Glasses, Pal Joey and Lou had been listening and watching the interrogations. They opened the door and looked in at them.
The four hoods sat around the table impassively, looking at its empty surface. After a moment, Jake looked up at Matt and Elisa.
They knew his answer even before he shook his head.
“Nothing,” he said unhappily.
“Nothing?” Elisa repeated.
She rushed over to him and grabbed him by the front of his shirt. “How could there be ‘nothing’?”
The other three regarded her and Jake wordlessly, expressionless.
“Goddammit, Jake,” Elisa began to shout. “What the hell’s the matter with you?”
By this time, Matt had a gentle but firm grip on her shoulders and was pulling her away from a mildly alarmed Jake.
“Too much coffee,” he said, jerking his head toward his frazzled co-worker.
“Jesus,” Jake muttered.
Matt led Elisa out of the room. “Come on, partner,” he said to her. “You’re not helping anyone this way.”
He led her into another interrogation room and closed the door behind them. “Just sit and chill for a second,” he urged her. She slouched in the chair, put her hand to her forehead, and closed her eyes. “This isn’t the end of the world,” he continued firmly. “We just have to stop for a minute and come up with some more alternatives.
“Like what?” Elisa asked wearily, with upturned palms. “We’ve run out of Estebans to interrogate. In the meantime, nobody seems to have seen that damned newscast. None of the Hispanic business organization leaders caught it, even; they were tied up with work and meetings. I’m sure we can find somebody who can tell us about that broadcast, but we just don’t have the time. And God knows when your warrant’s going to show up. What the hell’s holding that thing up, anyway?”
Matt frowned and shook his head.
Elisa rested her forehead on her hand. “And now I have to call Dracon and tell him that we came up with zilch here. This sucks, Matt.”
“We still have a chance to get that tape,” he insisted. “Remember, that Esteban might really pan out.”
Elisa looked at Matt. Her face showed every bit of the strain she was feeling. “Matt,” she emphasized, “we need this information now.”
Matt sighed heavily and turned around. If his face was going to show the hopelessness he was feeling himself, he didn’t want her to see it.
He rallied, and turned back toward her. “Elisa, why don’t you just relax and take a break for a while? Go get a cup of coffee. No, make that a cup of decaf. Hang out in the clock tower for a while. Run around the block a few times. Whatever. We’ve still got a lot of time between now and tomorrow night. Anything could happen.” He regarded her for a moment. “Do you want me to call Dracon?”
She shook her head. “No, that wouldn’t be right. I’ll talk to him.”
Matt waited for her to leave the room before he buried his own face in his hands in frustration.
He returned to his desk. Elisa wasn’t at hers; he guessed that she had followed his advice to take a breather. Or maybe she had gone somewhere private to talk to Dracon. Irony of ironies, he thought. One minute she wants to tear the guy to pieces, the next, she’s having quiet, confidential phone conversations with him. And speaking of phone conversations, I see that my message light is on…
Elisa really, really didn’t want to talk to Tony Dracon tonight. Not when it was so evident that they were running out of both time and options. She took a lengthy break, sneaking up to the remains of the clock tower to be alone with her thoughts for a while. Repair work had begun, and there were construction materials adding to the general clutter in the gargoyles’ erstwhile living area, but it was nevertheless a familiar place where she could take time out to rest and regain her bearings. She remained alone with the remnants of her, and the gargoyles’, former life until she thought she would start to be missed downstairs.
She could forestall the inevitable no longer. All she could do was to hope to heaven that Tony had come up with something of his own. She found the most out-of-the-way vacant office she could, and sat at the empty desk. She didn’t bother to turn the light on; the streetlights from outside were sufficient to illuminate the phone’s keypad. She sat staring at the phone for a few minutes, took a couple of deep breaths, and picked up the receiver. She punched in the warden’s phone number.
Far too soon for her comfort, Tony Dracon was on the phone. “Yeah, Elisa.”
“Tony…” She sighed heavily. “We hit a brick wall with your guys and the Estebans tonight.”
She heard him sigh as well, and mutter a curse.
“Please tell me your other guys came up with something themselves.”
“Please, Tony…” She tried to continue, and nothing came out. She cleared her throat. “Please…”
There was silence for a few moments. I don’t care if he’s pissed off now, disappointed, or whatever, she thought. I don’t care if he screams. I don’t care how he reacts at all.
He sighed. “I don’t have anything at all, Elisa,” he replied, his muted voice laden with despair.
Elisa’s eyes began to fill with tears of frustration and exhaustion.
“My guys have busted their tails,” he continued. “They don’t know what else to do. Neither do I.”
“Tony—” Her voice choked.
Oh, shit, she thought. Don’t… Not now, Maza. Please...
She was crying. She couldn’t help it. She was worn down. There was nothing left. Her little boy…her baby boy…
“Tony…oh, Tony…” she sobbed into the receiver.
Mainly to avoid crying himself, Tony began to sing to her, softly, in his husky voice, almost in a whisper. He sang the first song that came to his mind, one that somehow always came to his mind when Elisa would appear in his thoughts late at night. It was a cool, smooth, thoroughly sensuous number by Sade that was popular back in their high-school-senior days.
“It may come, it may come as some surprise…but I miss you…”
They slow-danced to it in the dark, smoky cocktail lounge at the restaurant that night. It was entitled, ironically enough, “Is It a Crime.”
“I could see through all of your lies, but still I miss you…”
She wore a wine-colored wrap-around dress that night that swept sophisticatedly low in the front and intoxicated him.
“Tony,” she breathed.
“Elisa,” he whispered in reply.
For a moment, they were transported back to that night, back to that moment, when she raised her face to his as they danced, and her soft breath was on his cheek, her beautiful lips suddenly so dangerously close…
Something clicked inside Elisa’s head. The busboy at the restaurant that night was…
“Huh?” Tony muttered, the spell broken.
“Tony,” Elisa said, coming to, “Steve Garcia. Remember him? He was the busboy at Donatello’s that night we were there. I think he had a crush on me, and he was never one of your biggest fans.”
“Because of you, of course,” Tony snarled.
“Regardless,” Elisa said, her enthusiasm returning. “Remember how he looked at us that night?”
“You mean, how he looked at you that night. I never told you this, sugar, but I pulled him aside while you were in the ladies’ room and threatened him with his life. For the millionth time that school year.”
“Tony, listen to this. I saw him at our ten-year reunion last year. We didn’t talk much, but he told me that he was an assistant DA at the time, and he was trying to get into state government.”
Tony was silent for a moment. “State government,” he repeated, his voice a mere whisper.
“Wouldn’t you say that kind of position could get his mug on TV sooner or later?”
“Now here’s the clincher. What’s the English version of ‘Esteban’?”
“…Aw, for cripe’s sake… I can’t believe we didn’t think of this sooner.”
“Tony, I’ve gotta go. I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.”
A pause. “Yeah, Drake?”
His heart skipped a beat. He had not allowed anyone else to call him that, ever since she had used that name for him, when she…
“Thanks, Drake,” Elisa murmured.
“I’ll be praying for you, sugar,” he said softly.
“Please do, Drake,” she replied.
They hung up their respective handsets.
Tony Dracon sat by Warden Blanchard’s desk, staring for a long time at the plain black telephone he had just used to talk to Elisa Maza.
High-school crushes are the most arduous of all. They burn the most brightly, they sear the most deeply, and they’re never truly forgotten.
Steve Garcia was never sure exactly when or how he began to notice Elisa Maza, a darkly pretty girl in his junior-year physics class, but his obsession for her grew daily, to the point where he could think of little else. He savored his classes with her, and put considerable effort into arranging apparently casual opportunities to talk with her. It always seemed maddeningly unfair to him, though—she was so unaffected by his presence and spoke with him so easily, while he would be in pieces inside and barely able to force out lucid words to her.
The fact that she never seemed to be dating anyone made her all the more alluring to him. How could she be so aloof? How could his fellow young males be so blind? They tended to be unnerved by her athleticism, wit, and coolly tomboyish demeanor, but those were exactly the attributes that bedazzled him. She seemed so confident, so masterful, so…in control.
And she was beautiful. Oh, God, she was beautiful.
He adored her.
He had finally worked up the nerve to ask her out at the conclusion of their senior year. It was now or never, he had told himself. As their high school days dwindled, he made himself realize that he might never see Elisa again if he didn’t do something—especially since she and Tony Dracon seemed to be getting a little too close for comfort.
He asked her out for that Saturday night.
Dracon had beaten him to it.
He had thought to try again sometime in the future, after he had recovered from this blow, but then there they were, at the restaurant where he was working for the summer. They talked. They laughed. They smiled at each other. They danced in the dark shadows of the cocktail lounge. It was a slow dance.
A very slow dance.
Steve never approached Elisa again.
Neither, however, did he forget her. The pain stayed with him for the rest of that summer and through his college years, both undergraduate and graduate. He felt it even as he took the New York State bar exam—by that time, having re-adopted his original name of Esteban. And when he went to a formal dinner attended by the mayor and other prominent New York politicians shortly after he had been hired by the DA’s office, he had wished that she were there with him so that he too would have had a glamorous significant other to show off to these people whom he wanted so badly to impress.
As time went on, a coworker who happened to be one of his closest allies and confidants—he didn’t like to think of such people as friends; that seemed too unprofessional—joined the governor’s inner circle of advisors. Esteban worked this angle tirelessly, and eventually was taken on by the legal team advising the governor’s task force on Hispanic affairs. He began to see a pattern of springboards extending before him, and began to entertain notions of moving on to elected office himself.
And still he wished that Elisa were there.
One night, upon returning to his newly remodeled row house in an upscale Albany neighborhood after a long day of meetings with community leaders from Rochester, he found in his mail, among the ads and catalogues, a business-sized envelope with his high school’s emblem in the return-address corner. His ten-year reunion was upon him.
When he arrived at the Manhattan hotel ballroom where the event was taking place, he immediately sought Elisa. She arrived almost an hour after he did—punctuality at social occasions was never her strong suit, he recalled—and she was blessedly, beautifully alone. Both a great deal and nothing had occurred in the years since he had last seen her—a great deal in that she and Tony Dracon were now at insurmountable odds both personally and professionally, and nothing in that she was still tantalizingly unattached. The old terror he felt in her presence returned, though. As a result, he shared little more than small talk with her, then spent most of the remainder of his time there watching her mingle with their other classmates. At one point he found himself chatting with one of his old debate teammates, who was now an associate at a large law firm in Manhattan. The topic of conversation drifted to Elisa, as it always did with Esteban, and he mentioned to his former classmate that he was thinking of asking her out, just for old times’ sake.
“I don’t know if you want to go there, man,” his former classmate replied. “Wait’ll you hear who the whispers in my office have her linked with.”
In total disbelief of the information that had followed, Esteban had asked his former classmate how he had gotten this information. The former classmate named a few names.
“I don’t believe this stuff myself, to tell you the truth,” this lawyer had commented. “Let me know if you find something out. I’d love to know what it is these yahoos really are seeing.”
The following morning, as Esteban headed home to Albany, he resolved to discover all he could about Elisa and her rumored non-human paramour.
To his abject horror, he soon learned that everything his former classmate had told him was true.
The more Esteban learned about Elisa and her relationship with the gargoyle leader, the more revulsion he felt. Everything came to a head for him when he went so far as to hide in the Central Park underbrush one night and observe one of their rendezvous himself. All they had done was to talk and clasp each other’s hands, but the look in Elisa’s eyes as she gazed up at the monster went well beyond anything he had seen that evening in the restaurant when she gazed at Tony Dracon.
He couldn’t eat for three days afterward, and it was a good month before he could phone the lawyer back and fill him in on what he had discovered.
Increasingly, he was expressing to his various colleagues in state and local government his displeasure with all things gargoyle, and certain potentially useful people were taking notice. He became allied with a group that cut across a wide variety of departments of both New York City and state government. They made it clear to him that he would have help in taking down gargoyles if he desired. They also made it clear that money would be essential to mounting anything resembling an effective assault. The creatures were powerful, and equally powerful—and very expensive—weaponry would be needed. Did he know of any sources of funding that, shall we say, would not involve too many paper trails?
Like, maybe the sort of thing Tony Dracon was doing these days?
Interestingly enough, in the weeks that followed, a former associate of Tony Dracon himself became Esteban’s chief source of information in this regard. He hadn’t wanted to believe everything this rather unsavory individual told him at first, but as he checked the information out, he found that it was all supported by evidence in the 23rd Precinct records, in the parole board and prison records, and in the Connecticut state adoption records—provided by a well-connected anti-Dracon sympathizer—as well as by every thug and petty operative on the street.
And then, everything began to come together into one beautiful plan with truly spectacular potential.
“Detective Bluestone!” David Xanatos exclaimed as Matt entered his office. He quickly rose from the large, padded leather chair behind his desk and strode over to Matt, greeting him with a firm handshake. “Thank you for coming at this hour.”
“David,” Matt declared, returning the handshake with even more vigor, “I’d have come at any hour for this. All I needed to hear on your message was that you got the tape and found something on it, and my feet were already out the door.”
“Well, as it turns out, I was able to take advantage of a few loopholes in our procedural impasse with the studio. Now, let me show you this.” Xanatos walked over to the large video screen on the side wall. “Here’s what caught my attention.” He pressed a couple of buttons below the screen. The video began playing. Matt watched as the news anchor sat at the set, reading a story, an insipid graphic depicting gang violence positioned on the screen over his right shoulder.
“An apparently gang-related disturbance at the loading docks of a deserted lower east side warehouse late last night left several people injured and the police searching for answers. Three members of the Dracon crime syndicate were beaten severely while allegedly in the possession of stolen electronic goods. The goods were identified as some of the merchandise taken last week from Hernandez Associates, the fast-growing co-op that has become the largest and most successful Hispanic-owned retail operation in the New York metro area. Because of the prominence of Hernandez Associates in the Hispanic community, municipal authorities have called the governor’s task force on Hispanic affairs in on the case. One task force member told us today that Dracon’s organization may have had some help from an unusual source.”
The broadcast then cut to video of a dark-haired man about Elisa’s age. He wore a suit and tie, was carrying a stack of file folders, and was standing on what appeared to be the steps of the state capitol building in Albany. He was speaking over his shoulder to the unseen reporter and the microphone she held up to his face, as though the reporter had accosted him from behind as he was on his way into the building, and he had stopped to accommodate her with a few words.
“They couldn’t have done this alone,“ he was saying. A graphic appeared on the bottom of the screen. It read, “Esteban Garcia, Task Force on Hispanic Affairs.” “Who was involved in this with them, we don’t know for sure, but gargoyles are suspected.”
“Esteban,” the off-screen reporter asked, “are more community groups mobilizing in light of these latest developments?”
“You don’t know the half of it!”
The camera cut back to the anchor, who immediately began reading a story about something happening in Buffalo.
Xanatos stopped the video and turned it off. The screen went dark.
“I reviewed the entire news broadcast,” he said to Matt, who was still staring at the dark video screen, “and this was the only mention of the gargoyles. I’m guessing, given your professional history and interests, that this was the item you wanted to see.”
“Esteban Garcia,” Matt muttered to himself, a look of growing revelation on his face.
Xanatos was puzzled by Matt’s reaction. “Was I wrong, Detective?” he asked him.
“David, could you replay that, please?” he asked. His eyes still had not left the screen.
Xanatos replayed the tape as Matt had asked. Matt watched the brief item, beginning to end. This time, at its conclusion, he looked at Xanatos.
“You’re right,” he nodded. “This is it. This is the item.”
Xanatos stepped over to him and put a hand on his shoulder. He spoke seriously. “Matt, please understand that whatever concerns the gargoyles concerns me. You know that. I can’t overemphasize the debt my family and I owe them, and if there’s trouble, I’m offering my help in whatever way I can provide it.”
Matt regarded him, grateful for his offer. “Thanks, David,” he replied, “but we’re still keeping them out of the line of fire, at least for now. You’ve done us an enormous service as it is, by getting this tape and showing it to me. And you can be of even further service if you let me take it back to the station with me.”
Xanatos returned to the video console and hit the “eject” button. He took the tape cartridge from the slot and handed it to Matt. “All yours, Detective,” he said, “with my compliments.”
Matt accepted the video from him. “David,” he said to him with satisfaction, holding up the cartridge, “this tape may very well be the key to cracking a very tough case.” He extended his right hand to him for a warm handshake. “Thank you,” he added emphatically.
“Glad to be of service, Matt. And another thing. I recall you mentioning that this was an undercover situation, so I won’t ask a lot of questions. As Illuminatus to Illuminatus, however,” he said with a slight smile, “let me ask you just one.”
“Would you be interested to know that I have a little bit of…supplemental information on this Esteban Garcia?”
Matt was amazed. “You’re not going to tell me that you know him,” he fairly gaped.
“No, but I have a couple of friends in Albany and here in Manhattan who do.” Xanatos walked back to his desk. “They told me a few things, Detective Bluestone, that I would bet the Eyrie Building and more on your interest in hearing.” He sat down behind his desk, leaned forward, and rested his elbows on the desk, fingertips steepled. His eyes were strangely unreadable.
Matt’s comfort level dropped precipitously. “David, let me ask you something,” he said as he wheeled a chair away from the adjacent conference table over to Xanatos’ desk and sat down.
“By all means, Matt.”
“When did you actually get this tape?”
“Let’s just say that I had plenty of time to call my contacts and get information.”
Matt smiled. “Now, David, Illuminatus to Illuminatus, neither you nor I would have much trouble envisioning Elisa’s reaction to this. I believe that the phrase ‘withholding evidence’ would appear in it somewhere.”
David chuckled in reply. “Undoubtedly along with a few colorful words that neither of us even knew existed. Yes, I know. I’ve been a very bad boy. Before I receive my spanking, though, I want to emphasize that I used the intervening time very well.” He folded his arms, leaned forward, and grew more serious. “I also reiterate, Matt, that whatever concerns the gargoyles interests me greatly. That was my only objective in gathering information on this matter.” He looked down at the surface of the desk. “I assure you, I was not the least bit prepared for what I actually did uncover.”
Matt gazed coldly at Xanatos. “Tell me what you know, David.”
He did. He had found out virtually everything. He knew why Esteban Garcia hated both Tony Dracon and Goliath, and how and why he had chosen to act on that hatred the way he did. He knew that Quarrymen support was involved, on both the state government level and the municipal level.
And he knew that Esteban Garcia’s kidnapping victim was Elisa’s son as well as Tony Dracon’s.
Matt silently and grimly took copious notes.
As Xanatos concluded, he regarded Elisa Maza’s partner for a moment. “Matt,” he asked quietly, “this case is undercover in unofficial terms only, isn’t it?”
Matt inhaled deeply and sat back in his chair, sticking his pen through the spiral binding of his notepad and putting both back into his coat pocket. He crossed his arms. One corner of his mouth rose in a sardonic little smile, and he regarded Xanatos. “David,” he began, “I have to say that I’m really stumped now.”
One of Xanatos’ eyebrows went up, as if to ask him what he meant.
Matt answered the tacit question. “I really don’t know what to do now.” He held out his hands, palms up. “Do I threaten you? Cajole you? Try reverse psychology? Simply arrest you and try to keep you locked up for as long as possible?” He rose from his seat and leaned forward over the desk until his face was about eight inches away from Xanatos’. “How exactly,” he snarled, “do I convince you to keep this information to yourself?”
Xanatos merely shrugged. “By saying so,” he replied. “Or not. Whatever you were to do or say, Matt, it would have no bearing on the fact that this is not the kind of information I feel any particular need to share with anyone.”
“If I’ve ever wanted to believe you, David,” Matt replied in a voice as cold as death and as earnest as life, “it’s now.”
“I understand your trepidation, Matt,” Xanatos replied as the detective sat back down. “I have given you and Detective Maza plenty of reason not to trust me. And I likely will do so again in the future.” He was deadly serious. “If and when I do, however, it will have nothing to do with this matter.” He lowered his eyes. “I doubt that I would have been saying this to you a year ago. But now that I have my own child, my own son—“ his eyes rose and unflinchingly met Matt’s “—I see things like this in an entirely different light. I’ll be the first to admit that there’s no love lost between Detective Maza and me. Nevertheless, I have nothing but respect and admiration for her in this case.” He clenched his fists. “My in-laws nearly forced Fox and me to give up our own son. We got a taste of the kind of sacrifice Elisa Maza made for her child. Between the gargoyles and the power of my beautiful wife, we were spared that anguish. I can only imagine what Elisa went through.” He looked away and paused for a moment. “Matt,” he continued, “I know that you, for one, would go to extraordinary lengths to protect Elisa as much as possible in this matter.”
“You’re absolutely correct, David,” Matt replied gravely.
David Xanatos again turned his steady gaze to Matt’s. “So would I,” he replied with equal gravity, narrowing his eyes.
The two men sat wordlessly for a moment, staring at each other.
“I need to believe that, David,” Matt insisted at length. “I have to believe it.”
“You may. And you shall.” Xanatos sat back in his chair again, relaxing the tension in the air somewhat. “And none of the gargoyles are aware of what’s going on?”
Matt sat back as well. “Brooklyn, Broadway, and Lexington are in on it now, although Elisa doesn’t know it. They came across Dracon’s men one night when they were observing her and me retrieving a note from the kidnappers. Dracon’s men filled them in, and I had no choice but to take them into my confidence.”
Matt leaned forward again and raised his eyebrows at his confidant. “Can you think of anyone who would want to tell him about this?”
Xanatos smiled. “No one with quite that urgent a death wish,” he replied.
“Exactly. This is one of the main reasons I’m so glad to see this mess looking like it’s going to be resolved soon. I don’t see the lot of us keeping a bright fellow like him in the dark for much longer on this.”
Matt rose to his feet. “David,” he said, holding up the videotape, “this evidence can’t be withheld any longer. I have to get back to the station with it.”
“Of course, Matt,” Xanatos said, rising to his feet as well. “Good luck.”
The two shook hands again. “Thanks, David,” Matt emphasized as he walked toward the office door. “I really mean it. Oh, and one more thing.”
“No thought at all, of course, to the withholding-of-information rap. Unless—“ a nasty smile crossed Matt’s handsome features “—you see fit to divulge, in any way, shape, or form, any of what passed between us here in this office tonight.”
Xanatos grinned as well.
“Then, of course,” Matt continued, “I will personally sic my partner on you, and she will take obscene pleasure in making it her life’s mission to teach you the meaning of the word ‘misery.’”
“I would expect nothing less of her,” Xanatos replied, still grinning.
Rounding the same corner in the station’s corridor from opposite directions, Matt and Elisa halted just in time to prevent a full-speed collision. They grabbed each other’s arms, and both spoke, hurriedly and excitedly, at once.
“Matt!” Elisa exclaimed. “Dracon and I finally figured it out!”
“Elisa!” Matt countered. “Xanatos came through! We found the guy!”
They paused for an instant, then blurted simultaneously, “Esteban Garcia!”
“Matt, you’re here,” Captain Chavez was heard calling from her office. She looked out the door into the hallway, grinning broadly. “Come on in! Let’s talk.”
On their way into the captain’s office, Elisa explained to Matt that she had already told the captain about her revelatory phone conversation with Tony Dracon, and proceeded to give him the thumbnail-sketch version—as she had earlier, with careful edits.
“There we are,” Matt crowed, flinging a hand in the air in a gesture of finality. “We’ve got our man. David gave me a ton of implicating information that he got from some well-placed pals of his in Albany and the DA’s office here in the city. He also gave me this.”
With that, he withdrew the videotape cartridge from his coat pocket and plunked it on the captain’s desk. Both women’s eyes widened considerably.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Elisa intoned.
“What’re we waiting for?” the captain interjected. “Let’s get this thing on!”
As Matt and the captain sought, obtained, and set up a VCR and video monitor, Elisa put a few calls out to get Dracon’s men back to the station, on the double. The three then assembled to watch the elusive news item for themselves. Matt fast-forwarded until the gang-violence graphic appeared on the screen over the anchor’s shoulder. He hit the “play” button.
“Yep,” Elisa nodded as Steve Garcia came on the screen. “That’s him, all right.”
He made his remark about the gargoyles.
Elisa looked as though she might hurl invective or something tangible, or both, at the screen, but said and did nothing.
The item concluded. Matt stopped the tape.
“That’s definitely the guy,” Elisa repeated, new life in her voice. “Now all we have to do is double-check the voice with Jake and the rest. Now,” she looked at Matt, “what’s this ‘ton of information’ you got from Xanatos?”
“Yes, Matt,” the captain encouraged. “We’re all ears.”
Matt Bluestone now had to make the decision he had been putting off ever since he left David Xanatos’ office. He had to decide what to tell Elisa, and how. He could only imagine how she would react to Xanatos discovering her deepest secret, and the image wasn’t pretty in the least. He could say that he had called one of David’s contacts himself and gotten the most sensitive information directly from him. Would she believe that? Would she be able to tell that he was lying? He had never lied to her before. Could he pull it off?
He soon realized that his failure to immediately begin recounting what Xanatos had told him was rendering the entire issue moot.
Elisa felt an arctic chill sweep through her body as she regarded her tongue-tied partner. “Matt,” she began.
He opened his mouth to say something, and stopped. He shut his mouth, sighed heavily, and looked down. I’m just plain dead meat, he thought. I’m road kill.
Elisa’s eyes opened wide, and she pounced on her hapless partner, grabbing him by the lapels of his trench coat. “What’re you gonna tell me he knows, Matt?” she growled. “Huh? What’d you tell him? What does he know?” She was starting to shake him, and didn’t even realize it.
“Detective!” the captain snapped at her. “Take it easy! Let him speak!”
“So help me, God, Matt,” Elisa snarled, but released him and sat back in her chair.
Smoothing the rumpled front of his coat and taking his notepad out of his pocket, Matt continued. “OK, Elisa, I don’t blame you. You might as well brace yourself right now, because you’re not going to be too thrilled with some of the stuff I’m going to say. But keep focusing on one thing: The noise you hear in the background is the sound of this case busting wide open, and David Xanatos and his contacts are to thank. I’m sorry, but that’s the way it is.”
Elisa glared, but nodded, and kept silent.
Matt proceeded, using his notes for reference. “One of the things Xanatos found out from his contacts is that Esteban Garcia had a crush on you in high school and has always been ticked off at Tony Dracon for asking you out before he was able to himself. Seems he was intimidated by seeing you and Tony, uh, getting cozy at the restaurant where he was working the night of your date. He figured he had no chance with you because of that, and didn’t even try to come on to you or ask you out or anything afterward. On the other hand, he never got over you, or Dracon. Now, interestingly enough, it seems that the contact Xanatos got this information from was at your ten-year high school reunion last year, and he in turn got this information straight from Garcia.”
“Swell,” Elisa grunted. “Do you know the name of this contact?”
“No, but I’ll find out from Xanatos. All I know is that he’s some business lawyer here in Manhattan.”
Elisa waved a hand and shook her head. “It probably isn’t important,” she decided.
“Actually, it probably is, and I’ll tell you why. Garcia mentioned to this guy at the reunion that he was thinking of asking you out. The lawyer responded by citing rumors floating around his office that you’re involved with someone who, well, isn’t human.”
Elisa closed her eyes and muttered several obscenities. Captain Chavez raised her eyebrows.
“It seems that when Garcia heard this, he was determined to get the whole story about you and Goliath. He started to do some investigating, and quickly found out that he wasn’t alone in his anti-gargoyle sentiment. He started getting information on the gargoyles and their activities from several sources that, if it’s any consolation, Xanatos was extra careful to get the names of. And I suggest we do a little investigating of our own when this case is over with, because these sources were able to give Garcia way too much information for comfort, partner.”
“Like what?” Her voice was sub-zero.
“Like—now, remember, don’t kill the messenger—enough so that Garcia was able to hide in the bushes in Central Park one night and observe one of your meetings with Goliath.”
“He WHAT?” Elisa cried.
“Told you. Anyway, this made him slightly ill—“
“That complete asshole!” Elisa seethed. “No wonder he and his shit-heels knew about our spot in the park. But, for crying out loud, Matt, Goliath and I never do anything when we meet in the park. We talk, that’s all. How can that make him sick?”
Matt regarded her silently for a moment. When he resumed talking, his voice was noticeably softer. “Elisa, I’m not trying to embarrass you or anything, but have you ever seen yourself, looked at a reflection of yourself or something, when you talk to Goliath? There’s enough wattage in your face to light all of Manhattan for a week.” Both he and the captain smiled. Elisa simply reddened. “It’s a wonderful thing to see,” he continued reassuringly, “but I can understand how your feelings would be obvious even to a casual observer, let alone someone watching you closely like that. And if this close watcher were the jealous type, which it appears our Esteban is, that would explain the illness. And the anti-gargoyle sentiment. And the Quarrymen involvement. And the apparent targeting of Goliath.”
Elisa squeezed her eyes shut, clenched her fists, and snarled through gritted teeth. “Fucking bastard,” she muttered. “Fucking bastard.”
“Now, this pretty much brings us to the end of what David learned from this lawyer buddy of his.”
“Wait a second, Matt,” Elisa interjected skeptically. “You said that Garcia and this guy just talked for a little while at the reunion. How’d the lawyer get all this information?”
“Seems the lawyer thought these rumors about you were pretty hilarious, and wanted Garcia to get back to him and let him know just what the heck was going on to get them started in the first place. Apparently Garcia gave the guy the shock of his life by telling him that they were right on the money.
“Anyhow, this really got Garcia going about gargoyles. When his anti-gargoyle buddies saw that he was this serious, they told him that they could help him go after gargoyles, but that he’d have to pony up some cash for expensive weapons—cash that would not be readily traceable. That gave him the idea of going after Dracon.”
“I have to admit,” Elisa conceded, “that this really is starting to make perfect sense. Here’s a way to get both Dracon and Goliath.” She sighed. “And the obvious link between the two of them was twofold—Joey and me.”
“That’s right, unfortunately,” Matt replied. “Garcia started going after Dracon, and it wasn’t long before he hooked up with another of Xanatos’ contacts, who just happened to be a former associate of Dracon’s.”
Elisa rolled her eyes. “Egad, what a surprise,” she remarked sarcastically.
“This guy tipped him off about Dracon’s illegitimate kid. This in turn led Garcia to the State of Connecticut adoption records, which is how he found out—apparently with the help of some sympathizer in the records office—about Joey Shapiro, and that you were his birth mother.
“Beautiful,” Elisa groused.
“So that completed the picture,” Matt concluded. “Garcia had an old case against Dracon and a new one against Goliath, he had the need for untraceable cash, and he figured that Joey was the key to getting everything he wanted, all at once, if he could pull it off.”
“And all we can do,” Elisa said gravely, “is to hope that if we reveal Garcia and his helpers as felons, it’ll be enough to throw the likes of Margot Yale and the other state and local authorities off this particular gargoyle trail.”
“That’s for sure,” the captain muttered.
Elisa tossed her hands in the air in utter resignation. “What can I say?” she shrugged. “For me personally, this is a regular CF, but, Matt, you were absolutely right. Xanatos’ information pulls everything together and makes it work.” She sounded subdued, but Matt noted with satisfaction the undertone of determination in her voice. “Looks like we can finally get out there now and get something accomplished,” she declared.
“Uh, Elisa, what’s a CF?” Matt asked, figuring it wasn’t anything pleasant.
She whispered briefly into his ear. He was right.
Maria Chavez leaned forward over her desk. “Fabulous work, both of you,” she congratulated them, satisfaction, relief, and determination evident in her voice. “Now, let’s go find Esteban Garcia. And Elisa, please try not to kill any suspects before we can bring them in for questioning, OK?”
Matt Bluestone sat on the stairs leading up to the ruins of the clock tower. He spoke on his cell phone.
“Hi, Goliath, it’s Matt. I’m fine. She’s fine too. She checked in a little while ago. Everything’s going well, and this thing should be sewn up real soon. Like in a day or two. Yeah, we’re glad too. And how. Listen, I have a little more info for Brooklyn about our hockey game. Is he there? Thanks.”
He waited for a moment.
“Hi, Brook! Hey, listen up. We got an ID on one of the hoods who attacked Dracon’s men after you talked to them. Turns out he’s more than likely the ringleader. Yeah, how ‘bout that? His name’s Esteban Garcia. We’ve got the NYPD, Albany police, state troopers, and the FBI mobilized. That’s a lot of people, and hopefully we’ll bust this thing before our deadline tomorrow early morning. But if you don’t hear from me, assume that we’re still on. OK? All right. If I don’t talk to you beforehand, good luck to you guys at the warehouse. Thanks. Bye.”
Dracon’s men had returned to the 23rd Precinct police station shortly before midnight on Thursday, and they all identified Esteban Garcia’s voice on the videotape, enthusiastically and without hesitation. Now that they had a target, the FBI agents and NYPD personnel swung into action.
In Albany, it was determined that Esteban Garcia had not been in his state capitol office since the day before yesterday; he was in New York City, conferring with Hispanic leaders there. The various Hispanic community and business groups in New York City were surprised but very understanding when they were approached by the FBI and the NYPD, and were more than willing to cooperate, as were all of Esteban Garcia’s colleagues in state and municipal government.
All, that is, except for the clandestine Quarrymen, who were sprinkled everywhere the authorities turned. Moreover, while they might have been a motley bunch overall, their communication network functioned distressingly smoothly, and word had spread through much of it that Esteban Garcia was to be protected. Naturally, and unfortunately, there was a high concentration of Quarrymen among Garcia’s associates, and they were able to buy him all the time he needed with their red herrings. In retrospect, Matt would wonder if any FBI people might have had a hand in putting up the smoke screen as well.
On the other hand, Matt and his colleagues also would find that, by uncovering the red herrings and matching them to the people who had laid them down, they would begin to see a pattern of activity that would prove to be very useful further down the road in their investigation of this sordid organization. But that, as the Weird Sisters would say, is a story for another day.
The search for Esteban Garcia that day was narrowing, but time was running out, too. It was becoming apparent that neither he nor Joey would be found before that night’s meeting deadline after all. Both the FBI and the NYPD began to prepare for a full-scale rescue operation and assault that night at the Lamont Enterprises warehouse.
And, since they had not heard from Matt Bluestone in the interim, so did three of the Castle Wyvern gargoyles.
The night had been a quiet one, and patrols had been concluded. There now was nothing more for the trio to do but watch the clock. As the time of the meeting at the warehouse drew near, Brooklyn crouched on the edge of the wall, looking out over his protectorate of Manhattan. He fidgeted as he sat, which made him rock back and forth slightly.
Broadway sat next to him, dangling his feet, concentrating on breathing evenly to keep his own nerves under control. He was grateful that Angela was inside with Hudson, the two of them engrossed in an old black-and-white movie, so that he would not have to try to conceal his thoughts to her, a task that he noticed was becoming increasingly difficult as their relationship progressed and deepened.
The clock in the great hall could be heard quietly chiming the quarter hour. Lexington hopped up onto the wall on the other side of Brooklyn. “Fifteen minutes, guys,” he muttered.
Brooklyn took a deep breath, his eyes still fixed straight ahead.
Then they heard the distinctive clicking of six large talons on stone behind them, approaching them.
“Oh, no,” Lexington whispered.
“Not now,” Broadway whispered.
Brooklyn just closed his eyes and let his breath out slowly.
Goliath’s deep voice rumbled right behind them. “Care to discuss this, brothers?”
Angela wasn’t the only uncomfortably perceptive gargoyle in this clan.
The trio sheepishly turned to face their commander. He towered over them, glaring, his arms crossed and wings caped imperiously. Brooklyn noted with some relief that his eyes were not yet glowing.
“Discuss what, Goliath?” Broadway offered.
Goliath’s generally bad—and worsening—mood over the previous few weeks had compromised his patience severely, and Broadway’s feigned innocence was not received well. Goliath’s eyes flashed, his wings flared out, and he bared his fangs in a loud, threatening growl. His tail snapped down sharply on the stones behind him.
Good job, Broadway, Brooklyn thought.
“Let’s try this again, shall we?” Goliath snarled at them angrily. “You’ve all been on edge for three nights now. Every time I look at you, you’re together, planning strategies for some kind of attack. When I approach, you fall silent, and when I begin to question you, I get nothing but denials. And I have serious doubts about the truth of your hockey game story. Do you think that I do not know my own clan brothers well enough to see clearly that something is afoot?” He bent at the waist, bringing his face closer to theirs. “It’s time to talk,” he insisted.
“We’re just—“ Brooklyn began.
“—trying to, uh—“ Broadway continued.
“—figure out how to—“ Lexington resumed.
“—build another motorcycle!” Broadway concluded brightly.
As they struggled through their attempt at a cover, Goliath straightened and turned away from them. With his face thus concealed, the trio did not see the explosion coming. When it hit, it knocked Lexington off the wall and nearly did the same to the other two.
Goliath spun around like an attacking lion, hair flying, fists clenched, massive wings fully extended, eyes blazing bright white. “ENOUGH!” he roared. “ALL OF YOU! INSIDE FOR THE REST OF THE NIGHT!”
Lexington scurried back up the wall.
“But, Goliath,” Brooklyn began to plead, “we—“
“INSIDE! NOW!” He pointed emphatically toward the great hall.
Brooklyn opened his mouth to speak again.
“THAT’S AN ORDER!”
The three looked at each other, realizing that the situation had taken an irreparable turn. Time was running out, and drastic measures had become necessary.
“We’ve got no choice, Brooklyn,” Broadway muttered.
“We’ve got to do it,” Lexington agreed.
Goliath pulled himself up to his full height, re-crossed his arms, and regarded the three with eyes blazing brightly. “Do what?” he hissed.
Brooklyn regarded Goliath for a moment, then hung his head in resignation. “Explain,” he answered as he hopped down from the wall. “Come on,” he said sternly over his shoulder as he headed for the doorway to the great hall, motioning for the others to follow.
He walked into the kitchen and went to the cabinet where Hudson kept a bottle of his favorite Scotch whiskey. He opened it, reached in, and pulled out the bottle. He reached up to the shelf above that one and took a shot glass down from it. He walked over to the table and motioned to it. “Sit,” he said to all of them. As they did, he set the bottle and glass down purposefully in front of Goliath. A puzzled look began to mingle with the anger on Goliath’s countenance, and he regarded Brooklyn with an arched eyebrow. The glow was gone from his eyes.
“That’s in case you need it,” Brooklyn explained grimly as he took his own seat directly opposite Goliath. He crossed his arms on the table and leaned forward toward Goliath. He closed his eyes, drew in a deep breath, and let it out as he opened his eyes and fixed Goliath with a firm gaze, almost a glare.
He began to speak.
Ten minutes later, the four warriors sat in motionless silence, staring at the surface of the table. At length, Brooklyn reached for the bottle of whiskey and filled the shot glass. He held it out to Goliath, who slowly shook his head without looking at either the glass or him who offered it.
Brooklyn retracted the hand that held the glass. “Mind?” he muttered. Goliath expressed his permission with a slight lift of one hand, and Brooklyn downed the shot in one swallow, without flinching.
The clock out in the great hall chimed the half hour.
Goliath pushed his chair back from the table and rose to his feet. He regarded his troops.
“My orders stand, brothers,” he said quietly but firmly. “You are to remain here for the rest of the night. There will be but one gargoyle at the warehouse at the strike of the hour, and it shall be the one they want.” He turned to go.
As he reached the kitchen door, he stopped, without looking back. “Brooklyn,” he said flatly.
Brooklyn looked up at him wordlessly.
“Thank you,” Goliath said quietly as he resumed his exit.
The trio knew that it was useless to argue. As Goliath strode outside, mounted the wall, and dove into the night breezes, they remained seated at the table, staring at the whiskey bottle.
Goliath retracted his wings slightly to increase his air speed. A portrait of refined-steel resolve, he hastened toward the dockside warehouses of the lower east side.
This was no ordinary mission tonight. He had two beloveds to protect. And protect them he would, whatever the cost.
As the wind rushed past his skin, his thoughts traveled unbidden to words and images that stood by in his mind, ready to torture him to death if he allowed them to. One coalesced with agonizing insistence: the knowledge that Elisa’s only child had been sired by one of their direst, most dangerous mutual enemies.
We seem to be establishing a pattern here, he thought, images of Angela and Demona flashing in his mind.
And now, in Elisa’s time of greatest crisis and need, this enemy was the one she had turned to.
“Why?” he whispered to himself. After all they had been through, experienced together, discovered together. After all that had passed unspoken between them. After everything that, lacking the assistance of their conscious beings, their two hearts and souls themselves had seen fit to build between them…
Regardless of the relationship they had configured with their intellects, and neatly and justifiably termed a friendship, their deeper selves had sought each other relentlessly, bent on driving the two of them, helpless, through hell itself if necessary, until everything was achieved and all had been set right.
Oh, heaven and earth, how they loved each other. How he loved her. Life did not exist for him without her.
Why, then, did this happen? Why did it happen this way?
Had he been wrong about her all this time?
He desperately tried to sweep such thoughts from his mind.
In his consciousness, it had been only a few years since he was in his previous life, at the Castle Wyvern where it originally stood on the Scottish seashore. The earth was flat, the sun revolved around it, and he had settled more or less comfortably into a routine as clan leader. Issuing orders and making strategic decisions no longer unnerved him, especially with Demona at his side advising him. He could not have chosen a better mate; her military skills were unsurpassed, and their joint direction of the clan and its battle strategies proved successful day after day.
He knew, however, that, thanks to the sorcery of the Magus, a thousand years had intervened between that previous life and this new one here in Manhattan. And yet, even after his now hardened and vicious Angel of the Night—now named Demona, and no longer his—had made it clear to him that she had regard neither for humans’ lives nor for his, he had sought, through the opportunity that time travel had afforded him, to save her, and his marriage. He had failed to do either, and he had accepted that. He felt that he had done his best.
Nevertheless, he still wondered if it would have taken him longer to accept his failure had the complicating factor of Elisa not been present. In this radically different new life, she was a radically different new entity, and yet it was abundantly clear to his rapidly reviving heart that she represented a force as ancient as life itself.
He had known from the outset that there was something special about her. The speed with which she had overcome her initial shock on the occasion of their meeting had amazed him. Not five minutes after he had deposited her, gasping with fright, upon the stones of one of the castle’s walkways following their lengthy ascent of the Eyrie Building’s sheer face, she stood listening to him, attentive and fascinated, as he told her of the events of the previous several days of his waking life, both in Scotland and in Manhattan. Still somewhat disoriented himself, he had regarded this odd human female with curiosity and perplexity. She was aesthetically pleasing, in her exotic human way, but it was her eyes more than anything else that had caught and held his attention. She had kept them fixed on his as he spoke to her, never once diverting them out of fear, modesty, or any other of the human reactions he routinely encountered. Now and then, she prompted him with a question, demonstrating her interest in, and understanding of, what he was saying. Later, she would provide him with irrefutable evidence of her allegiance—she would risk her life for him. And this would happen again and again, as he would risk his own life for her. As time went on, they began to chastise each other with increasing earnestness for placing themselves in harm’s way for each other—even as their willingness to sacrifice themselves for each other grew. And then the Puck’s peculiar sorcery opened his eyes one incredible night to the passion that, he realized, had already infused his relationship with her.
To swear allegiance to, and protection of, a friend is one thing. To fall in love is another. Even as he had hoped against hope to uphold his gargoyle and personal traditions and morals by salvaging his doomed marriage, he felt himself slipping further and further into feelings that were gradually overwhelming him. He had successfully fought powerful, deadly enemies in both the new world and the old, but he was unable to vanquish his own heart. The moment Elisa, newly transformed into a gargoyle, had turned her eyes up to his and smiled at him, he felt every defense within him throw down its sword in unconditional surrender. That one look forced him to face just what it was that he felt for her. And in doing so, he realized that his struggle with his own emotions was over even before it had begun. When she regained her human form, it didn’t even matter to him. He tried to talk sense into himself on occasion, but, ultimately, his heart knew better. Species differences be damned—she was his Elisa.
She was a new love for a new life in a new world. She was similar to Demona in all the right ways—her battle skills, her cunning, her counsel—and dissimilar in all the right ways—her unwavering devotion to her principles, her lack of political ambition, her courage. Having been blinded years—ages!—ago by Demona’s beauty and fire, he found himself now being overcome with his eyes wide open, by attributes that went well beyond those that had attracted him as a teenager. Demona may have been his Angel of the Night, but Elisa was his Angel of the Night and Day.
She was his Perpetual Angel.
In short, it was different with Elisa. It was real. And it made him burn inside with enough heat and light to sustain all of his protectorate through even the longest winter.
But now, as he glided through the chill December night sky, the burning inside of him was leaving nothing but charred emptiness in its wake. He hurried along his route in as desperate an attempt to leave his thoughts behind as to reach his destination as quickly as possible.
The Lamont Enterprises warehouse was soon in view. Something occurred to him, and he suddenly pulled up and away from the direct route he was following. He could see dark-clad figures on the warehouse roof, scanning the sky—for something airborne.
In that case, he thought, perhaps he should take to the ground.
He banked in a wide circle, coming back toward his destination from a much lower angle. He skimmed the rooftops until he reached the third building down from the target warehouse, soundlessly landing on the far angle of its roof. He surveyed the surrounding area, then glided into the alley below. Cloaking his wings around his broad shoulders, he cautiously resumed his approach, this time on foot.
As he thought about the fact that there could be any number of adversaries between him and the interior of the warehouse, where, he suspected, Joey was being held, he felt momentary regret that he had come alone. He realized that he had ordered the others to remain at the castle more out of a desire to deal with this situation himself than out of fear for their safety. He hoped that his emotions would not ultimately prove to be his undoing yet again.
His sharper senses of hearing, vision, and smell, while nowhere near as acute as Bronx’s, nevertheless provided him with an advantage over his human counterparts. Watching carefully for movements and shadows, and sniffing the air for telltale human scents, he neared the warehouse.
Garcia’s troops all seemed to be in the immediate vicinity of the warehouse building, he noted as he surveyed the area from around the corner of an adjacent structure. Additionally, he was pleased to see that many of the armed and masked figures continued to scan the skies rather than the ground, even the ones stationed by the building’s various entrances.
Walking around the backs of the neighboring buildings and ducking through alleyways, he began to circle the warehouse. He didn’t get far before he realized that he had company in his surreptitious surveillance. A veritable army of police and FBI vehicles were arriving and assembling in the area as well, out of sight of the warehouse but ready for attack on an instant’s notice. Endeavoring to remain out of their sight as well, he retreated to a vantage point near the back of the Lamont Enterprises warehouse, in the dark shadows behind some delivery trucks parked near the water.
While all of the warehouse’s entrances were heavily guarded, the back of the building had only one door, guarded by four figures rather than the six or eight at the other entrances Goliath observed before having to return to hiding. Of course, there was no telling how many guards were inside the building. He knew he had his work cut out for him.
As he watched the guards continue to scan the skies, he sensed an opportunity, and readied himself to charge. Suddenly, a raspy bark was heard off to one side.
“Hey!” one of the guards cried.
“What the hell is that?” another snapped, just as Bronx bounded up and slammed two of the guards heavily into the wall. Hudson and Angela followed Bronx in attack.
Goliath charged as well. By this time, Hudson was short-circuiting a third guard’s weapon with the blade of his sword while he banged the guard’s head against the wall, and Angela was immobilizing the remaining guard.
“What are you three doing here?” Goliath hissed to his newly arrived companions.
“You neglected to extend to us your order to remain at the castle, Father,” Angela smiled.
“Did I not tell the others that there would be but one gargoyle here at the stroke of the hour?” Goliath countered sternly.
“You could not have known then,” his clever daughter answered innocently, “that Hudson, Bronx, and I would be here too.”
“Next time,” Goliath smiled in reply, “I shall have to remember that my daughter is evidently a legal scholar.”
“There doesn’t seem to be much noise inside, even now that we’ve made plenty of our own out here,” Hudson remarked, his head cocked. “We’d best be very careful when we remove this door.”
The now-unguarded door was closed and locked. Goliath knew that there would be no avoiding the noise of splintering wood and cracking hinges as he removed the door, and wondered how much more noise they’d be able to make before the guards on the roof or inside the building took notice.
At that moment, however, he heard a familiar-sounding automobile engine. Sprinting over to the end of the wall and looking around the corner, he saw Elisa’s Fairlane, accompanied by a police cruiser, approaching the front of the building. This, he thought, might be a sufficient distraction.
He hurried back to where his companions stood, next to the door. He nodded to Hudson and Angela, then yanked the door from its frame and hinges as quickly as possible. The three of them immediately leaped to one side, in the event any of Garcia’s troops were waiting on the other side or chose to exit the building from that way. Fortunately, the building’s occupants were directing scant attention to this doorway, at least for the moment.
With Hudson and Bronx remaining behind, standing guard, Goliath and Angela went on the offensive, bolting on all fours inside and down the dark corridor that went through the office area of the warehouse. They perceived that they were headed in the right direction when they stopped at a corner in the corridor, peered around it carefully, and saw a phalanx of six armed guards outside one office door.
“We can take them,” Angela whispered.
“Wait, Angela,” Goliath whispered in reply. “Those are powerful weapons. They can do great damage in this close a range. I don’t want to take any chances; Joey might be behind that door.”
“What if I were to draw them away from the door for you?” Angela suggested. “I could get them to chase me back the way we came and out the door, and Hudson and Bronx can help me take care of them outside.”
As she said this, Goliath’s eyes were darting around, searching for something that might assist them in their attack. He looked up, and silently lifted a side of the tile in the suspended ceiling above them. The area over the ceiling was open, with sturdy-looking steel girders crisscrossing about four feet above the level of the ceiling.
As he lowered the ceiling tile, Goliath motioned to Angela to follow him into a nearby office. Once inside, he noiselessly closed the door behind them and began taking tiles out of the corner of the ceiling least visible from the doorway. He quietly bent the struts that had held the tiles out of the way, leaped up to grab one of the girders, and pulled himself up onto it.
“All right,” he whispered down to Angela. “Go now and draw the guards away.”
The guards outside the office door looked nervously at each other as they heard bantering between the newly arrived police officers and the kidnappers commence. They listened for a moment as, outside, Elisa addressed the building’s occupants through a bullhorn, urging them to surrender. They made a few remarks to each other indicating their lack of intention to comply.
“You might want to reconsider that offer, all of you,” a female voice said from nearby.
They looked toward the voice and saw Angela peering around the corner at them, waving insolently, with as diabolical a grin on her face as her sweet nature would allow.
After an instant of shock, one of the guards snapped out orders. “Go get her!” he yelled. “Jack! Fred! Stay here!”
He ran away, around the corner and down the corridor, with the three guards he had ordered after Angela. She, Hudson, and Bronx were waiting for them outside, and commenced making short work of them as they exited.
The two remaining guards could hear the noises of the battle filtering down the corridor.
“That doesn’t sound too good,” one said. “Think we should get out there and help?”
“No way,” the other replied. “Cameron told us to stay here. Besides, I’m not exactly dying to mix it up with a gargoyle.”
“Was that the gargoyle Esteban was expecting?”
“I don’t know, but I bet it wasn’t the kind of entrance he expected.”
As he finished saying this, a gargoyle roughly twice the size of the one they had just seen crashed through the suspended ceiling on top of them. Goliath quickly cracked their heads together and broke their weapons in half.
It was now time to find out what was behind this formerly well-guarded door. Goliath sank his talons into the middle of it and pulled sharply. The door came off its hinges and out of its frame easily. He propped the wreckage of the door against the wall and looked into the room.
He saw a young boy sitting bound to a chair against the far wall and gagged with duct tape over his mouth.
The eyes that looked back at him were Elisa’s.
“Joey,” he said softly.
Joey’s hauntingly familiar eyes widened as he took in the formidable sight.
Goliath hurried over to him and knelt to examine his bonds. The layers of duct tape that held Joey, however thick, were no match for Goliath’s strong, sharp talons.
As he freed the boy and carefully peeled the piece of duct tape from his mouth, he could hear someone in the front of the building shouting through his own bullhorn at the law enforcement officers outside, demanding that they produce the gang operatives and gargoyle necessary to gain Joey’s freedom. Knowing that this was not about to happen, he surmised that there was no time to lose. “We’re getting out of here, Joey,” he said quietly, “but you must do exactly as I say.”
“Yes, sir,” Joey replied in a hushed voice, with an enthusiastic nod.
No fear behind the initial reaction, Goliath thought. Just interest. Respect, even. What a boy.
“Call me Goliath, Joey,” the massive gargoyle said as he swept him up in his arms Elisa-style.
“OK, Goliath,” Joey replied.
Goliath stepped over to the doorway and glanced down the dim hallway. He looked back down at Joey. “We must be absolutely silent,” he instructed him in a confident whisper.
Goliath darted down the dark corridor. Almost instinctively, he wrapped one wing around his front, shielding Joey with it. Angela and the others likely had secured the area and had things well in hand by now, but he could not take any chances of harm coming to his young charge.
When he got to the doorway, he paused and peered out. Angela, Hudson, and Bronx stood in the midst of eight unconscious and disarmed black-clad figures. Goliath hurried past them, still carrying Joey, and motioned with a jerk of his head for them to follow him. They ran behind an adjacent building and stopped in the alley.
“Hudson, Angela, return to the castle with Bronx now,” Goliath directed them. “I shall follow you shortly, after I deliver Joey to police custody and make sure he’s safe.”
Angela was looking at Joey. He smiled at her, and she smiled back, with a certain amount of wonder in her expression that did not escape Goliath’s notice. She then looked up at her father. “We’ll wait for you on the rooftop here,” she said, pointing up, “just to make sure nothing goes wrong.”
“Very well,” Goliath replied. He and Joey both watched as they began climbing up the side of the building.
He looked back down at the dark-featured boy in his arms. “Now, Joey,” Goliath said quietly to his beloved’s son, “I’m going to get you to safety, so the police officers can do their job.” He ran around the back of the building, ducked through another alleyway, and continued his circuit toward the back of the police lines. All the while, he could hear the continued bantering between Elisa and her colleagues and the kidnappers. The protagonists, he thought—by the Dragon, was that Glasses’ voice too that he heard?—were doing a commendable job of stalling. Each exchange gained him and his young companion invaluable time as they put more distance between themselves and the former captors.
And every time Goliath heard Elisa’s voice, steady, clear and demanding as she addressed her enemies, he drew a little more strength from it.
Rounding one more building, he stopped and looked out from behind a stack of crates at where a group of law enforcement teams were assembled. He spotted Matt Bluestone and crouched, gently setting Joey on his feet.
Goliath spoke conspiratorially into Joey’s ear. “See the fellow with the red hair?” he asked him, pointing to Matt.
“When I say ‘go,’ you count to ten, then run over to him and tell him that you’re Joey, and you’re safe. OK?”
“Good boy.” Impulsively, Goliath put his hand on Joey’s shoulder and gave it an affectionate squeeze.
Joey beamed at him. “Thanks, Goliath!”
Goliath smiled warmly at him as he rose and turned toward the wall next to them. “Go!” he said over his shoulder in parting.
Joey began counting silently to himself. One, two…
As quietly as he could, Goliath climbed the wall until he was high enough to feel the breeze lift his wings.
Seven, eight, nine…
Goliath’s large silhouette soared into the dark sky.
Joey ran out from the alleyway, over to Matt as he had been instructed. “Hey, excuse me,” he said, getting Matt’s attention. “I’m Joey.”
Matt’s head jerked around. “Huh?” Wha…!” For a moment, he was incredulous at the sight of the young boy rushing up to him, seemingly from out of nowhere. The situation rapidly sunk in, however, and he spoke quickly into his two-way.
(Crackle.) “Yeah, Matt.”
“Joey’s out! He’s here with me!”
As he said this, Joey piped up. “I’m OK,” he affirmed. “I’m fine. I’m safe.”
At the same time, Elisa heard voices rise in alarm from the interior of the building.
“Hey, what happened here? Where’s the kid?”
“Shit! The kid’s gone!”
Elisa surmised from the chaos and the nastiness of the cursing inside that this indeed was true. She had no idea how it happened, but she knew she’d have time to find out later. Right now, this was exactly what the assembled forces needed. Their one reason for restraint was now standing safe on the sidelines, next to Matt.
The assault began.
Shouted instructions of “Go, go, go! Move in!” echoed through the air and over the two-ways of the SWAT team. An approaching police helicopter could be heard in the distance. As both SWAT and conventional officers swarmed out of hiding and toward the building’s various other entrances, Elisa bolted to the railing next to the several concrete stairs leading down to the entrance to warehouse’s offices. She bounded over the railing and landed next to the door. She kicked the door as hard as she could, and it flew open.
“Police!” she hollered at the three black-clad figures in the passageway. “Drop your weapons!” They didn’t, instead raising them and taking aim at her. She had no choice but to open fire. She felled one before the other two could begin firing. She ducked back out the door as laser fire flashed past her, knocking a large chunk out of the doorframe next to her. Crouching, she whirled and resumed firing into the doorway, this time felling the other two gunmen. Leaping to her feet, she raced down the passageway past the three writhing and inert figures.
She ran down a long corridor, rounding a couple of corners. She came to a skidding halt before entering the open area of the warehouse, as a bullet ricocheted off the brick wall in front of her. She paused behind the corner of the wall, knowing that the SWAT team was well into its work in that part of the building. From the sound of the battle, she surmised with considerable satisfaction that Garcia and his goons had bitten off a great deal more than they could chew. Good for them.
She heard quick footsteps in the corridor behind her. Someone was running toward her. She turned and saw him before he saw her; he was looking back over his shoulder as he ran. He was apparently fleeing the fighting and, she guessed, heading for a back exit. He was armed with a laser rifle like the other dark-clad thugs, but, unlike the others, he wore no mask. He turned around and spotted her immediately.
He gasped and froze in his tracks.
By the light of a single bare light bulb in the ceiling, she recognized the man standing in front of her, gaping at her.
Everything in her view seemed to go red.
He turned and bolted back the way he had come.
“Freeze, Garcia, or you’re getting it in the back!” she howled, enraged. She scrambled after him and took aim.
Not being the cooperative sort—or all that tremendously sentimental, Elisa commented to herself—his response was to raise his weapon and aim it back at her as he continued running. Bullets and laser fire passed each other in their flight through the passageway. Evading the assault, Elisa slammed against the wall and dropped to the floor. She grabbed her two-way as she went down, and hollered into it as she lay on the floor.
“Matt, Garcia might be headed out the door!”
“We see him!” came Matt’s reply.
Elisa scrambled to her feet and ran the rest of the way down the passageway. Instinctively halting as she reached the exterior door, holding her gun in both hands, barrel pointed up, she looked out and saw SWAT officers running to surround a lone black-clad figure. The police helicopter hovered low overhead, shining its bright searchlight on the now-surrounded figure of Esteban Garcia. Matt was running up to him, handcuffs flashing in the blinding light from the aircraft.
It was over that fast.
Elisa took a deep breath and leaned back heavily against the door frame. After one last, paranoid glance back down the passageway, she returned her gun to its holster.
As several of the officers on the scene roughly hauled Garcia and his men into the backs of the waiting police vans, Elisa walked over to Matt. “A job well done, partner,” she said to him, putting her hand on his shoulder.
“You too, ace,” he replied, relief evident in his voice as well.
He turned and looked over his shoulder. “Hey, Joey,” he called.
Joey Shapiro stepped out of the shadows behind them and walked over to Matt’s side.
Now that the danger had passed and the scene was quieting down, Matt had a chance to take a good look at the boy. The eyes struck him first. They were hers exactly. He noticed the cheekbones too. Not so much the mouth—until Joey smiled.
This was pretty intense, Matt decided.
Then he looked at Elisa.
She stood motionless, regarding Joey in a trance. Matt was almost relieved that he wasn’t quite able to read her face or her eyes.
Matt put his arm around Joey’s shoulders. “Now tell us, Houdini,” he said, incredulous. “How the heck did you pull that escape act just now? Did you have a stunt double in there or something?”
Joey laughed. It was her laugh. “It was INCREDIBLE!” he gushed. “A gargoyle got me out! A real, live gargoyle! His name was Goliath, and he was AWESOME!”
This did no favors for Elisa’s frame of mind. Robbed of her power of speech, she looked at Matt. He appeared equally surprised.
Joey was entirely mindful of the looks on his elders’ faces. “Hey, I wouldn’t have believed it either,” he sympathized, “if I hadn’t seen him myself. He was just AMAZING! He pulled the whole door off the room where they had me. Ripped the hinges off and everything. Pieces flying…” He waved his arms descriptively. “It was without a doubt the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. And his WINGS!” He stretched his arms out as far as he could. “They were ENORMOUS!”
Matt looked at Elisa. He now perceived that she might start laughing or crying; he wasn’t sure which. Heck, he thought, she might even faint. Now, that would be something.
Joey continued. “We stayed quiet so we wouldn’t attract any attention from the jerks who were holding me captive, and we just tore out of there. He was carrying me. His arms were UNBELIEVEABLE! They were HUGE!” Joey held out his hands as though he were grasping a medium-sized tree trunk.
The SWAT team commander came up to them, accompanied by Captain Chavez. “Hey, little bro,” he smiled at Joey.
“Hello, Joey!” the captain beamed.
“Hi!” Joey replied brightly.
The commander turned his attention to Matt and Elisa. “The mop-up crew’ll take it from here. You folks take care of the chief here,” he said, smiling again at Joey.
“Awright!” Matt replied. He looked down at Joey. “Ready to return to real life, Mr. Shapiro?”
“Yes, sir! You bet!”
“Then let’s go. Your mom and dad are waiting.”
Elisa remained silent as she guided the Fairlane through the shadowy streets of the warehouse district. Captain Chavez had called the Shapiros immediately following the wrap-up of the proceedings at Lamont Enterprises, and all were to meet at the station. Matt sat in the back seat with Joey, and both were enthusiastically reviewing the night’s events. Like they were returning home from a rock concert or something, Elisa thought.
Captain Chavez sat in the front seat with Elisa, also silent. She glanced at Elisa every so often, checking to make sure that she was all right.
Elisa’s sense of relief seemed to deepen as she pulled over to the curb in front of the station and parked. She knew that a variety of rather complicated emotional issues had yet to be sorted out inside of her, but she also sensed that the most important things were falling into place. Joey was safe, and was about to be reunited with his parents. In light of that, she felt, everything else would be dealt with in its own time.
Matt and Joey walked a few steps ahead of Elisa and Captain Chavez to the captain’s office. As they rounded the corner into the office, Elisa heard a sharp cry of delight from Janet Shapiro. She entered the office herself, and beheld Joey smothered in the ecstatic embrace of his parents. Their tears of happiness were contagious; Elisa saw that the captain, standing next to her, was wiping an eye. Matt just grinned broadly.
Elisa marveled at her own lack of emotional response. She felt good—great, in fact—as she beheld the joyous scene before her, but somehow she felt removed from emotional participation, as if she were beyond reaction to anything.
At length, Janet, then Ben, looked up from their son and saw Elisa standing nearby. A moment passed as they stood frozen in the presence of the woman whom they regarded as their own household legend—a hero, a savior, an archangel.
Janet put her hand to her chest, as if to keep her heart from leaping out of it. Ben released his hold on her and Joey, and walked over to Elisa. With tears streaming down both cheeks, he said to her, in a choked whisper, “Please…let me kneel to you this once.” And he did.
That finally got Elisa past her paralysis. She fell to her own knees and wrapped her arms around Ben. She was still too stunned to speak, cry, or do much else, but things inside of her were at least beginning to resume their normal functioning. Sobbing, Janet came over to the two of them and knelt to join the embrace. Elisa made them rise to their feet. She saw that both Matt and Captain Chavez had resorted to a couple of facial tissues themselves. Joey’s eyes were wet from the emotion of being reunited with his parents. Only Elisa’s eyes remained dry.
Joey stood facing Elisa. He had been regarding her for a long while, noticing that several of her facial features were very similar to those he saw in the mirror every day. Elisa looked back at him, and the attention of everyone else in the room was focused on the two of them.
Joey finally spoke to her. “Are you my guardian angel?” he asked her only partially facetiously, his voice filled with awe.
“As long as I’m living and breathing,” she replied to him softly, “I’m going to do my best to be exactly that for you, Joey.”
He ran over to her and hugged her. She closed her eyes and hugged him back. For a few glorious moments, with the danger passed, Joey safe, and the Shapiro family back together, all was right with the world.
Joey and his parents were beginning their journey back home, but Elisa’s night was not over. She stood with Matt, waving to the Shapiros as they happily entered the elevator. As the doors closed, removing the family from sight, Matt turned to look at Elisa. She was still relatively void of expression, and Matt was becoming genuinely worried, all the more so because there remained one more issue in the night’s sequence of events that desperately needed addressing.
To his relief, Elisa raised the subject herself.
“So Goliath was there, huh?” she asked flatly.
“I didn’t even know he was there until Joey told us,” Matt replied, somewhat defensively. He watched Elisa for some sign of emotional reaction. There was none. “I’m not even sure how he found out.”
That got a reaction. She turned and looked at him like he had just told her yet another of his off-the-wall conspiracy theories. “What are you talking about?” she said with exasperation. “Obviously, Xanatos told him.”
“Somehow, I don’t think it was Xanatos, Elisa,” he replied.
“Matt, look,” she insisted. “It’s OK. I’ve come to grips with the fact that my personal privacy had to be sacrificed, to David Xanatos, no less, for Joey’s safety. I’m not happy about it, but I just consider it part of the cross I have to bear for my past mistakes.”
Matt directed a calm, steady gaze at her. “Elisa, I’ve always prided myself on my ability to sense when people are hiding things, not telling the whole story. It’s a talent that served me well when I was with the FBI, and it serves me well nowadays when I try to get information out of suspects. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that David Xanatos is just about the toughest read I’ve ever met. But I’ve never seen him more sincere than when he was telling me that he had no intention of revealing your secrets to anyone else.”
Elisa looked away. “Yeah, Matt,” she muttered.
“Elisa, you may not believe this, but he respects you for what you did for Joey. Honors you, even. Remember, he has a son too, whom Oberon and Titania almost took from him. Elisa—“ he put a hand on her shoulder and gripped her “—I really doubt that it was him who told Goliath.”
Elisa regarded his earnest face for a moment. “Then who did?” she asked.
He released her shoulder. “I think it was one or all of the trio,” he answered.
Elisa’s shoulders sagged. “You’re not going to tell me…”
“A couple of nights ago, when Goliath returned to the castle with a few parts missing, the trio went out to investigate. They spotted us at Weber Warehouse and were watching the goings-on when Dracon’s own observers got the drop on them. When they all figured out that they were looking for the same thing, Dracon’s men filled them in. They were the ones who were supposed to have been at Lamont Enterprises tonight, not Goliath. He must have finally gotten the truth out of them.” He turned away again. “We almost pulled it off, Elisa. We almost kept the big guy out of this.”
Elisa shook her head sadly. “Nice try, partner,” she said, patting him gently on the back. “Well,” she continued, “I need to go get a call through to Tony. Then…I’d better go and have a talk with someone.” She said this with a combination of purpose and resignation in her voice that Matt found depressing.
He nodded and watched her walk over to the elevators. She waited for a car, and entered it, without looking back at him, without saying anything, and once again without any expression on her face at all.
Once again, Tony Dracon found himself sitting next to the warden’s desk, staring at the plain black telephone after having concluded a conversation with Elisa Maza. Joey was OK, she had told him. He was on his way home with his parents. Esteban Garcia and his gang were in custody, and some potentially valuable inroads into the Quarrymen organization had been made. The case had been solved, and all had turned out well.
She had even thanked him and his associates for their help and cooperation.
He stared at the phone.
He had asked her just before they hung up what Joey looked like.
“He has my eyes, cheekbones, and smile, and your mouth, nose, and chin.”
“Is he happy, Elisa?”
He heard the smile glowing in her serene voice. “He’s perfect, Tony.”
Tony Dracon sat in the warden’s office, staring at the phone for a long time.
The scene of Joey’s reunion with his parents back at the station had been a blessed respite, an oasis in the night’s turmoil. For a little while, Elisa had been able to relax and breathe again, before having to dive back into her own private hell—and, at last, to face the worst of it.
Now, driving through the streets of Manhattan, she felt like a condemned woman approaching her executioner alone. Generally, she didn’t mind being alone. She enjoyed her own company. While she needed the companionship of her friends and family on a regular basis, she was happy living alone, having time to herself after work—especially after a night that was particularly difficult or weird, or both.
This night, however, her feeling was not of being alone, but of loneliness.
Her car traveled along the now very familiar route to the Eyrie Building. The landmarks passed by outside—the signs, the stores, the newspaper stand. As she passed each one, it was as if it were being crossed off a mental list. As she reached the end of the list, the entrance of the parking garage of the Eyrie Building was in sight ahead.
Her heart began to pound hollowly as she turned into the entrance and drove down the ramp. The garage was nearly empty at that hour, and she parked near the elevator. She had no feeling in her fingers as she got out of the Fairlane and headed for the elevator. The elevator doors closed, and the car began its ascent to the ground floor lobby.
She held out her pass for the security guard as she headed for the express elevator to the castle. He nodded at her, barely looking up from his magazine. As she stood in the car, again watching elevator doors close in front of her, an image of a guillotine flashed in her head.
Amazing, she thought, how, under the right circumstances, the fact that David Xanatos knows my life story can turn out to be the least of my worries.
Her insides were leaden. The speed of the express elevator didn’t help, either, as it pulled everything inside of her down to somewhere around her knees. Back at the station, she had felt hungry for a little while. She was glad now that she hadn’t eaten anything then, and she had the feeling that she wouldn’t have much of an appetite for days to come.
The car began to slow. It stopped. The doors opened, and she stepped out. She could hear quiet, routine noises off in the living areas of the castle. She looked around the deserted great hall, not sure who she would rather have encountered first, and knowing that encountering any of the gargoyles was the last thing on earth that she wanted right now.
She headed for the library. She needed to check there first, she decided.
Her hand trembled as she noiselessly turned the handle on the latch of the large, heavy library door. A few deep breaths weren’t helping much, but at least they kept her on her feet. She pushed the door, and it swung open, slowly, silently.
The fire in the fireplace was the room’s only illumination. He stood with his back to her, gazing out one of the large windows at the city below. His arms were crossed and his wings caped. He didn’t move. She wasn’t sure if he knew she was there.
“Yes, Elisa?” he said quietly, coldly. He knew.
She walked over to him. His back remained turned to her. She felt like she was approaching a statue of a Greek god in the ruins of the Parthenon, or Michelangelo’s David. Beautiful, but cold and hard. Stone. She honestly felt at that moment that she might have been better off if Steve Garcia’s laser fire at her earlier that night had found its mark.
She was standing right behind him now. He still didn’t move. “Do you have something to say to me?” he asked, the chill in his voice unchanged.
He suddenly whirled and looked at her. “ANYTHING?” he shouted, eyes glowing.
Elisa squeezed her eyes shut for a moment and tried not to shudder.
It had been a very long time she had flinched in the face of Goliath’s wrath.
This was not lost on him. He turned around again and resumed gazing out the window.
Back in the kitchen, where the rest of the clan was gathered around the table having a light supper, sandwiches and utensils were set down at the sound of Goliath’s shout, and uncomfortable looks were exchanged.
“Goliath, I’m sorry—“ she began.
“For what?” he said in a voice that, oh God, she thought, he reserved for addressing Demona. Never in her worst nightmares had she envisioned him speaking to her with this distance, this hardness in his voice.
He sounded like Thailog.
And she knew that she deserved it.
“For not trusting me?” he continued, turning toward her as he spoke. “For endangering yourself? For being involved with Tony Dracon?” His voice was rising. “For having a past? For not caring enough about me to tell me about it? For thinking so little of me as to believe I wouldn’t want to know? Wouldn’t understand? Wouldn’t care? WOULDN’T STILL LOVE YOU?”
The words went through her as swiftly and surely as any blow that Arthur Pendragon could have administered full-force with Excalibur.
Somebody please tell me this isn’t happening, she thought. Not this, not this way. Those beautiful, incredible, amazing words, words that lay unspoken between them almost to the point of no longer needing to be spoken, spoken now in this manner…
A scene from a play she had read in high school, Jean Anouilh’s Antigone, flashed in her head. It was the scene in which the heroine, facing her own death, explains that nothing can be done to avoid the tragic outcome of the story—that the proceedings of the tale were set in motion long ago, and could do nothing but proceed unimpeded to their conclusion.
She was utterly drained, physically and emotionally. Yet she had to do something. She returned his gaze. She wondered if she should try telling him how difficult this whole ordeal had been for her. No, that would be useless. He knew.
That was why he was so upset.
“I feared for you,” she began simply. She hung her head. “I feared for you,” she repeated helplessly.
His hand on her chin was gentle as it raised her face to meet his gaze, but there was unspeakable hurt and harshness in his eyes. “No,” he whispered. “You feared for yourself.”
She squeezed her eyes shut and truly did desire death at that moment. She knew what he had just said to her. That she was a coward. Like Demona. She opened her eyes again and looked into his. It was like staring into hell—a hell of her own making.
He stood erect once more and crossed his arms, glaring at her. Perhaps thankfully, the Antigone syndrome overtook her at that moment. Nothing could be done now. Fate was bearing down on her, and had to be accepted. This thought relaxed her somewhat.
“Yes,” she replied evenly, firmly. Her gaze was direct and foreboding. “I did fear for myself. But you can’t deny that I feared for you as well. That’s simply wrong.” She paused, then continued. “Was I to throw you to Garcia and his gang to satisfy their ransom threats? Was I to put your life on the line like that?” Her shoulders sagged slightly. “I’m sure that you would have had me do just that; that’s the way you and I operate.” She took a deep breath. “Our own lives are worthless to us without the other’s. I know that.” Goliath felt something akin to an arrow pinging through his heart. He turned back toward the window. “This time, Goliath,” Elisa continued, strength returning to her voice, “it just felt like I would have been asking you to sacrifice yourself for too many of my own mistakes. I couldn’t bear to drag you down into all of that with me. It was something I needed to take care of myself.”
He looked back at her over his shoulder. His body turned to follow his gaze. He drew closer to her, leaned toward her, and grasped her upper arms with his powerful talons. “Why couldn’t you TRUST ME?” He was almost shaking her as he said this.
She snapped. “FOR GOD’S SAKE, GOLIATH,” she cried, “I CAN ONLY TAKE SO MUCH!” He released her, and in reflexive response, her voice lowered. “I can only take so much! The thought of watching your face while I told you about Joey made my stomach turn over for an entire day. The thought of you coming to the warehouse and having to face God-knows-what there, was too much. I couldn’t do it—“
Goliath clenched his fists and released a cry of frustration heavenward. “Don’t you have ANY IDEA what I’m willing to do for you?” he wailed, his hands opening up to her in supplication. “Don’t you have any idea how much I can handle when it comes to you, Elisa? Don’t you have any idea how much I WANT to help you? HOW MUCH I CARE? HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU? DOES THAT MEAN NOTHING TO YOU?”
Back in the kitchen, the clan sat in sullen silence.
Goliath was trembling. Elisa felt like she was once again standing on the edge of the turret of the Castle Wyvern, that one fateful night two years ago. Standing on the edge, looking down, down, down. In her mind, she leaned forward and let herself fall, and knew that there would be no angel to catch her this time.
Her eyes filled with infinite sadness. “It means everything to me, Goliath.” Her voice was hushed, heartfelt, wistful. “Everything. So much so that I couldn’t face the real reason for not telling you.”
Goliath began to have the same feeling of impending doom Elisa had. “What?” he asked quietly, dreading her answer, dreading the truth that he realized was finally emerging.
“Because I knew that it would lead to this conversation,” Elisa said mournfully as she walked past him to gaze out the window herself. “While I was pregnant with Joey, I watched other pregnant women enjoying one of the happiest times of their lives,” she explained quietly. “They had it all. Husbands and families who were thrilled that they were pregnant, baby showers, baby clothes, cribs, nurseries…” Her voice tailed off momentarily. It resumed as barely a scratch on a pane of glass. “They had their husbands with them when their babies were born, hugging them in the delivery room, crying tears of joy with them. They got to hold their babies for longer than the few minutes I had. They got to take their babies home with them, live with them every day, watch them grow up—“ Her voice choked to a halt.
She steadied herself for a moment, then turned her haunted, anguished eyes upon her wounded friend. “This is what I didn’t have, Goliath. And this is what I want.”
“And this is what I cannot give you,” he finished for her, his eyes and voice lifeless.
The way she hung her head in reply was all the affirmation she needed to give him, and far more than he wanted.
The true meaning of what was now passing between them began to settle into their consciousness and crush them both.
Once again, as on that night before the hunter’s moon when Goliath stood on the ledge outside Elisa’s window and watched her kiss Jason Canmore, and listened to her tell the handsome human that it would be impossible for her to get involved with the one for whom she cared deeply, Goliath felt his world collapse, his life end. And this time there could be no recourse, no vengeance, no alternative. They were both trapped in what they were, and had become. All they could do now was to try to survive this, and—
“Goliath, please understand that I’m still your friend. That hasn’t changed. It never will. I still care for you. I’ll still always be there for you.” She took a ragged breath. “I still need you,” she pleaded.
“As I need you,” he said hopelessly.
They stood, looking down at the floor between them, as if watching their two mortally wounded hearts lying there on the stone, gasping their last.
Elisa sensed that there was no more to be said. “I have to go,” she muttered, and headed for the library doors.
Goliath let her go.
As the door closed behind her, he clenched his fists again and grunted as he felt a tidal wave of bereavement sweep through him. He turned to the wall and pressed his fists against it, grimacing. He shook with the force of his failing control, and slowly slid to his knees. He opened his hands and dug his talons into the wall, the stone and masonry crackling in his iron grip. Gritting his teeth, eyes squeezed tightly shut, he raised his face to an uncaring heaven. His wings flared high and wide, his mouth opened, and an inhuman scream of anguish erupted from a heretofore unsounded depth of his soul.
David and Fox Xanatos heard it and awoke immediately, sitting bolt upright in bed in sheer terror.
Owen Burnett heard it in his sleep and began having a nightmare about times long past and forgotten on Avalon.
Little Alex Xanatos heard it in his bassinet. He opened his eyes wide but did not stir, and made no sound. The look in his innocent round eyes was strangely similar to comprehension, even wisdom.
The clan heard it in the kitchen. Angela put her head down on the table and began to weep quietly. Broadway leaned over to her and put his arms around her. Lexington sat motionless, his large eyes like lanterns in the dark night. Bronx gave a bewildered whimper. Brooklyn clenched his fists and squeezed his eyes shut. Hudson leaned over to Brooklyn and gently took hold of his wrist. “Steady yourself, lad,” he said to him quietly, meaningfully. “Your services are going to be needed in the days to come.”
For a horrific instant, the trio and Hudson had been transported back a millennium, to that worst night of their lives, to that moment when, they realized as they heard the dreadful sound, Goliath viewed what he thought were the remains of his Angel of the Night.
Unbelievably, this was worse.
Elisa heard it as she began her descent in the elevator. When the sound reached her ears, she fell against the wall, overcome by convulsive, choking sobs, mourning two broken hearts that would never heal.
And the sparse passers-by on the streets in the neighborhood of the Eyrie Building heard it faintly, all believing that their imaginations were simply playing macabre tricks on them that morning.
“Be with me always – take any form – drive me mad! Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh God! it is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!”
---Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights
David and Fox looked at each other in the dim early morning light. “I think we should go check things out,” Fox said nervously. David nodded in agreement.
They got out of bed, pulled on their robes and slippers, and headed first to Alex’s room. He had closed his eyes and gone back to his peaceful slumber. From somewhere nearby came the sound of Owen muttering in his sleep.
Reassured of that much, they walked out into the living areas and spotted the now-stone gargoyles sitting around the kitchen table. They noted with concern their unsettling poses and expressions—Angela with her head down, Broadway embracing her, Hudson reaching out to a distraught Brooklyn, worry etched on Lexington’s face even now.
David sighed. “We’d better go find him,” he muttered as much to himself as to Fox.
He checked the library first, of course. He opened the door and immediately spotted the stone figure kneeling against the wall next to the window. He looked a little more closely—and stopped Fox from entering. “Just a second,” he said. He looked at her. “This isn’t too pretty,” he warned her.
They both entered and walked solemnly over to Goliath. He was frozen in a pose of stark, feral agony. His talons were embedded deeply in the solid stone wall. His face was turned upward, twisted into a pain-wracked grimace, eyes pleading for relief that would never come.
“Oh, my God,” Fox sighed. “Oh, David. The poor thing.”
David shook his head. “It almost makes me want to go get a sledgehammer and put him out of his misery.”
Fox looked at him strangely. Although she knew that he would never actually do this, she was struck by the intensity of his desire to assuage such horrific suffering. “I’m really not sure how I feel, hearing you say that,” she said.
“I’m really not sure how I feel, saying it,” he replied.
She looked back at Goliath, wincing. “What do you suppose happened to him, anyway?”
“I don’t know. Everyone else is here, in the kitchen; no one’s lost, so that can’t be it.” He thought for a moment. “You know, Matt Bluestone told me that Elisa’s been working on an undercover case. I wonder if…anything happened to her.”
Fox put her hand on his arm. Her face was not without worry. “Let’s go call the 23rd Precinct police station,” she suggested, “if only to put our minds at ease.”
They turned and walked out, leaving the library’s stone occupant alone with his silent nightmares.
Please note that all the characters in this story except Warden Blanchard, the Shapiro family, the Hoolihan family, Jake Lasky, Esteban/Steve Garcia, Lou, Mikey, Fred, Jack, Cameron, Jim, and several unnamed incidental characters are the property of Disney/Buena Vista Television and the brainchildren of the great Greg Weisman (and fleshed out by the formidable production team of the series Gargoyles). They are used here without permission, but with tremendous respect. Any resemblance of any character to which I lay claim in this story—particularly those named above—to any actual person or persons either living or deceased is purely coincidental and entirely unintentional.
Finally, I wish to thank the many writers who have preceded me in
the archives of Gargoyles fan fiction. Every one of you has been an inspiration