Chapter 1: The Kidnapping
Those Felt bastards never fail to ruin a good heist. But you’ve got the edge on them this time. You’ve got onna their boys tied up in the back. Deuce managed to nab him on your way out and you know for a fact it isn’t Doze because that fucker was clear across the lot when the four of you were hightailing it.
Beyond “not being Doze”, though, you don’t have a goddamn clue who it is, because Deuce and Boxcars had been the only two dealing with him, you and Droog having been too busy driving away like a madman and shooting the tires out of any car stupid enough to try to follow you, respectively.
You’d caught a glimpse of that hideous Felt green as Boxcars had been bringing in the captive, wrapped up in his absurdly huge coat, but beyond that you trusted your largest and brashest member to alert you should anything funny start happening.
It thereby comes as a surprise to you when your littlest member comes hopping up to you in the parlor instead, looking shifty. Clubs Deuce is not one to usually look shifty or worried, and this does not make you feel good in the slightest, so you forlornly down the rest of the whiskey you’d been nursing since the return to the hideout in one go and resolve yourself to the worst. You wince as the liquid burns on its way down and wait for Deuce’s boyish voice to break the silence.
“Uh, boss, we might have a bit of an issue on our hands.”
“What kind of issue, Deuce?"
“The kind you might need to come see, boss.”
You groan and stand up, making to beckon Droog up with you, but the tall thin Dersite is already halfway to the door, having voiced his concerns about something feeling ‘off’ to you not five minutes previously.
You follow the little form of Deuce through the corridor and into the small back drawing room, the favored cozy place each member of the Midnight Crew had for different reasons. Why it had been chosen to house your captive, you don’t know. Or at the least, you don’t know until your eyes fall on the long couch in the center of the room, where lay your hapless Felt captive.
Or, what you had thought was a Felt captive.
“You said we had an issue.”
“Yeah, I did.”
Hearts Boxcars, who is settled sentry in the back of the room, snorts in dry amusement. “Ain’t that an undastatement.”
You stare. Deuce fidgets. Droog, standing over the end of the couch, takes a slow drag on his cigarette and exhales, looking down at the figure in a mixture of curiosity and disgust. “Well. Classy lookin’ broad, gotta admit that.”
A woman lay on the couch, unconscious. Or, you assume it’s a woman, it LOOKS kind of like a woman but it’s covered in pale pinkish skin that looks stupidly fragile. In fact, the thing just kind of looks fragile in general, and whatever it is, it is NOT one of the Felt, despite the disgusting green coat it’s wearing. You tear your eyes from the figure on the couch and look at Deuce instead.
“What the FUCK, Deuce?!”
Deuce jumps like you’ve stabbed him and scuttles around a bit before finding a spot of carpet several feet away from you, replying only after he had stopped moving. “I dunno! I saw green and grabbed it while we were scramming!”
“You grabbed a BYSTANDER.”
Deuce flails his short little arms toward the couch. “BUT… GREEN!”
You take a breath to continue yelling at your subordinate but you get interrupted by another one before you have the chance.
“Easy, boss,” Boxcars’ voice is quiet but it carries through the room easily, “Deuce didn’t mean ta grab the broad, an’ we were all too hurried ta notice she wasn’t right before we got back. Leave him be.”
“…That’s RIGHT,” Boxcars’ request is granted, as you direct your ire at him instead of Deuce now. “You carried that thing in and you didn’t notice it WASN’T A FELT?! How FUCKIN’ BLIND DO YOU HAVE TO BE?”
This is going nowhere fast.
Chapter 2: The Realization
==> Stop being Spades Slick
You try to become Hearts Boxcars, but you cannot, because he is too busy getting yelled at by Spades Slick for not correcting Clubs Deuce’s stupid mistake. You become Diamonds Droog instead.
Your patience for Slick’s yelling is never very high, and when Boxcars starts yelling back your tolerance dips even lower. If it wasn’t for the blessing of nicotine you’d probably already have shot one or the other of them in the foot for being so fucking loud. At least screams of agony are pleasant to listen to.
The dame on the sofa sure as hell LOOKS like she might belong to the Felt, so you can’t fault Deuce or Boxcars for making the mistake. Despite being some strange species unrelated to you or them, she just looks the part, the way she’s dressed absolutely screams of being something that Snowman had gotten her paws on. The atrocious green coat and the shiny gold-chained pocketwatch just poking out of her pocket are merely the tip of the iceberg. You’re pretty sure that Deuce might have actually bagged a goldmine rather than a dud, here.
And when you’re pretty sure about something, you virtually always turn out to be right.
You’re kind of impressed at her ability to stay knocked out cold during all this shouting, and no sooner do you think that then you see her eyes twitch and then scrunch up, a low painful moan escaping her lips.
“Boys,” you say, and despite your low volume the whole room stops to listen. The silence rings for a moment or two, Slick having been cut off in mid-sentence in his shouting match with Boxcars. “She’s wakin’ up.”
==> Be the classy-lookin’ dame
Your head is absolutely pounding. Whatever hit you had hit from behind and you’d blacked out. Your last memory is of watching an angry Crowbar swing his namesake weapon at a man all dressed in black that you knew to be the leader of a rival gang before everything went out, and now you’re waking up in God-knows-where with all kinds of loud noises going on.
Oh, wait, no, the noises have stopped at least. That’s nice. You raise your arm and place it over your head, feeling about for any lumps that you’re sure will be there soon if they aren’t now, and wait for some indication of what happened. You’re surprised Itchy isn’t babbling in your face yet, his caffeine-induced ranting the last thing you want to hear right now. Slowly, you pry one eye open, expecting the dark, saturated green of the Felt manor to greet your sight, perhaps with a splash of bright green in the form of a concerned Doze or Die breaking the background. Instead, you see no green at all, your field of vision filled with a dimly lit, unkempt but cozy sort of room colored mostly in black and the rich browns of natural wood. You close your eye again and groan.
So you’ve been kidnapped. Fantastic.
You open your eyes and try to get your bearings, sitting up slowly as you do so. You look to your right and nearly jump out of your skin, leaping across the couch and landing painfully on the arm of it, as far away as you can get from the sight that greeted your eyes. Not only are you not alone, but there are two bizarre and somewhat menacing looking creatures here with you, one very short and stout and the other very thin and tall, both dressed in black clothing, their oddly reflective black skin making their faces shine. The short one had jumped just about as bad as you had when you leapt across the couch, so much so that its hat had fallen off, but the tall one had not so much as flinched. You meet its gaze and the creature merely stares calmly back at you, its strange eyes with pupilless white irises and black sclera unnerving as everything else in this experience.
Your attention is brought back to the short thing, as it picks up its hat and replaces it with a flourish, before speaking in a sweet-sounding, boyish voice. “Um, hello! It’s nice to meet you!”
You hear a strange loud ‘clack’ sort of noise behind you and spin around, and actually do fall off the couch in shock this time, letting out a little screech of both surprise and pain. There are two more of the creatures in the room with you, one very tall and bulky and the other lither, about your height. It was that one who had made the noise, having smacked itself on the forehead. “Damnit, Deuce, you are not going to make this thing your friend.”
“B-boss! We have to be NICE to her!”
“Only because you kidnapped it by mistake!”
“No! We have to be nice to her and introduce ourselves because that’s what gentlemen do!” The small thing whose name is evidently Deuce flails his arms about in some form of exasperation before scuttling over to stand next to you, sitting on the floor dizzy with confusion and shock. You’re about the same height as Deuce in your sitting position, so you can’t help but stare into his strange eyes as he grins at you, his mouth full of sharp white teeth. “Welcome to the Midnight Crew, miss!”
“Whh—“ You lean back from Deuce a little, shaking, still not sure what is going on. “Who are you?!”
“Clubs Deuce!” He replies, extending a beetle-black hand to you to shake. His fingers all end in sharp points to match his teeth, the joints on his fingers and wrist having odd little bulges that catch the dim light in the room and shine like the shell of some aquatic creature. As you carefully take his hand and shake it, you realize this is because it is a shell, a rather hard one at that, and the bulges around his joints are where the shell overlaps to allow for motion. You look helplessly around at the other three creatures, men you suppose, in the room, none of them looking remotely as friendly as Deuce but at least none of them looking precisely angry, either. All of them scowling in varying degrees, yes, but none in particular malice.
The largest one in the room is next to speak, voice deep and slow and gruff with a heavy accent you pin down at once as an exaggerated human New York. “Boxcars. Hearts Boxcars.”
“This is ridiculous.” The lithe one snarls in his odd rough velvet sort of voice, both hands on his forehead now, temper clearly and quickly rising. Deuce looks nervously around at the tall thin one instead, who has not really moved at all other than to continue smoking his cigarette. He catches Deuce’s eye and takes a drag of said cigarette before speaking, addressing his angry compatriot.
“No sense gettin’ worked up now, boss. Dame’s already here. All we can do is find out where she came from and deal with her from there.” His voice is calm, deep and a bit gravelly, almost something you could call husky, suggesting both a history of heavy smoking and a present of heavy smoking. His accent is lighter than that of Boxcars but still marked. He looks from his boss to you and you feel the bottom of your stomach drop out, his penetrating look hypnotic and full of subdued danger. “Name’s Diamonds Droog, doll. Loudmouth over there’s Spades Slick.”
“Loudmouth?! Come over here and say that to my fucking face!”
Droog’s level gaze turns back toward Slick and you can practically feel the room get icier. “Y’are one, boss, I’m just tellin’ the truth. ”
Slick scowls at Droog but holds his tongue, and when he finally looks at you his severe gaze is even harder to be under than Droog’s had been, sharp and intense and commanding. “Well then, who exactly are you? Where’d you come from? And… what are you?”
You stare hopelessly at Slick for several seconds before groaning and placing your face in your hands. You’ve finally recognized who these men are. They’re the rival gang the Felt has been working against for ages. You clearly got picked up by them, possibly on accident by how they’re talking, as they were getting away. Rather than answer any of Slick’s questions, you just groan to yourself into your hands.
“Ughhhh… Goddamnit, Scratch, I blame you for this. If you didn’t fuck me so good I’d quit this stupid gang and I know you know it.”
The room falls deadly quiet.
So quiet that you actually peer through your fingers to make sure the men are still there, and they sure are, all eyes locked onto you in varying expressions of shock and, in Droog’s case, smugness.
“…What did you say?” Slick says, breathless, his eyes wide.
“Because I’m pretty sure you just admitted not only to being connected to the Felt but being the pet of their boss.”
You really don’t like the grin spreading wide across Slick’s face.
“Boys,” he addresses his gang, gleeful malice rising in his voice, “Oh, boys, I think we have a winner here.”
Chapter 3: The Game Begins
“They’ve got to already know this broad’s missing,” You’re in such a state of shock at yourself for what you have managed to get yourself into that you barely register what Spades Slick is babbling about, addressing the other alien men in the room. “The only thing we don’t know is what lengths they’d be willing to go to to get her back.”
“And if she’s such a darlin’ toy…” Droog’s voice is slow and contemplative as he cues Slick in the right direction, habitually it seemed.
“Might be willing to go pretty fuckin’ far, exactly.” Slick is pacing around the room, gleefully malicious, the plan he has cooking obviously falling into place quickly for him. “Who knows what kind of info we could get for her ransom!”
“Ain’t gonna happen without a fight, boss.” Boxcars chimes in, his large arms crossed over his equally large chest. “Goddamn Felt have more’n a few good brains among ‘em. They’d be able ta figure out a way ta get her back without tellin’ us a damn thing.”
“Fuck that,” Slick replies quickly, “We have Droog, don’t need any brains other than him.”
“Flattered, boss.” Droog’s reply is deadpan.
“You’d better be. Now, question is how do we make sure they get the picture they need to cough up information instead of trying to take her from us…” Slick is looking at you again, contemplative, menacing, and you just stare right back at him. “Crowbar knows how to run those bastards down to the wire, even the fuckin’ idiot with the oven, we need somethin’ damn good to convince ‘em.”
There’s a beat or two of silence.
Then Slick looks expectantly at Droog. “Well?!”
Droog, in the middle of a drag on his cigarette, just looks back at Slick placidly. “What? I’m expected to think of every little fuckin’ detail?”
“You do it anyway! I thought I’d just give you the option of doing it before having to correct me!”
“But boss, correctin’ you is the best part of the whole shebang.”
Boxcars’ face is in his hands. “Can tha two of ya have this palemate fight later?”
“No!” Slick almost screeches in indignation.
You are this close to just standing up and walking out of the room, since not one of these men are paying attention to you now, except for maybe the little tiny one called Deuce who is still standing near you on the floor.
“I want to figure out what we’re doing with this broad now! Don’t need to be fuckin’ around with her all godda—“
“Excuse me!” Deuce finally speaks up, frowning around at the other three guys in the room. “Will you all mind your language? We are in the presence of a LADY.”
The silence following Deuce’s interruption rings for several long moments. As Slick, Droog and Boxcars stare blankly at Deuce, who just frowns back at all of them, you proceed to burst out laughing, letting yourself fall backwards to lay on the floor and cackle. Alarmed, all of the boys turn their attention to you as you gasp for breath, laughing openly at the absurdity of Deuce’s interruption. When finally you catch your breath and sit up again, still giggling, it’s with a renewed sense of your usual spunk, no longer frightened and shocked by the proceedings into inaction.
“No, no, don’t mind me, boys, not like I don’t hear all kinds of lewd language with those green guys I hang out with.” You grin up specifically at Slick. “Not like I don’t use such lewd language myself.”
It’s Slick’s turn to be shocked into silence, staring at you looking both insulted and astounded.
You pull yourself to your feet and brush yourself off, grinning around at your captors. “By the way, no, I’m not the pet of the boss of the Felt, precisely. The boss of the Felt is technically Lord English. Scratch is just English’s… executive.”
More stunned silence fills the room. Slick’s eye is twitching lightly, his expression some emotion you can’t quite put your finger on.
This is fun.
“So! If you’re gonna hold me for ransom I’d suggest you get to it! Because right now there isn’t anything stopping me from just walking right out the door!” You gesture behind you toward the door to the room, which indeed you are the closest to and the only one who might have a fighting chance of catching you should you decide to bolt is Deuce, who is about as menacing as a newly born bunny rabbit and could restrain you just about as well as one.
There’s another beat or two of silence as you let this little factoid process through the minds of the men in the room.
And then bolt you do.
Chapter 4: The Sneaking
You assume that the incoherent screams of surprise and rage you hear echoing through the hall behind you are mostly from Slick and Boxcars, especially after you hear a loud crash that is presumably one of the two bashing into a chair and knocking things over in the tiny back room in their haste to chase after you. You grab hold of the end of the staircase railing and spin around it, dashing up the stairs just as Deuce scurries into your line of sight, pointing wildly at you.
“Up the stairs! She’s going up the stairs!!” Deuce pauses and you can just barely hear him as you reach the second landing and look around for where best to hide yourself. “…Why is she going up the stairs? She can’t escape that way!”
You duck into a nook between the staircase landing and the wall, shadowed and sheltered from view by the odd way the wall curves, and catch your breath. You can hear the boys below, then up the stairs, arguing amongst themselves.
“Ohhh if she’s going to be doing this might be more trouble than she’s worth!” Slick snarls, “Out of my way, Deuce!”
You assume it’s his feet thundering up the stairs, and somehow manage to hear Boxcars speak over the sound of Slick’s angry footfalls.
“Dunno, boss, she puts up enough of a fight, might mean she’s even more worth it than ya think.”
“Shut up and help me find her so we can deal with her properly!” Slick replies from the staircase, having paused to shout down at his subordinates.
“Guess we better get a wiggle on!” Deuce says in reply, and together he and Boxcars mount the stairs, much less frantically than Slick had. Speaking of Slick, you’d already watched him run right past you and start opening doors at random, looking for you so you can be properly dealt with… whatever that means. Fascinatingly, you watch Deuce scurry right past you as well, neither man apparently thinking to look in the obvious little nook in the wall. Boxcars, evidently, had turned the other direction on the small landing.
You sit and listen for a solid minute to Slick’s angry tearing apart of whatever the room next to you is, suppressing laughter with some difficulty. Your hand strays toward the right pocket of your jacket, where lay your favorite tricky time-manipulating artifact, your ace in the hole, given to you by Doc Scratch upon your official induction into the Felt. You pull out the gold item, a medium-sized pocket watch with a single button on its top, chained to a loop of fabric on your coat. Grinning at the shining cover, engraved with a simple rounded triangle with a circle contained within its borders, you click the button on top of the watch.
A soft wooshing sound greets your ears and you fearlessly step out of your hiding hole, placing the watch back into your pocket. The Stop Watch, as it was introduced to you, is absolutely useless at telling time or indeed even functioning as a stopwatch, but it is absolutely invaluable when it comes to manipulating circumstances, because it functions to quite literally stop time for everything but you. You and anyone else that might happen to click the watch into functionality, that is, and perhaps anyone touching anyone clicking the button, but you haven’t let the watch out of your grip yet to tempt either of those fates.
You peek into the room on your left, the one Slick is frozen in the process of tearing up looking for you. It seems to be a bedroom, probably Slick’s own by the look of it, furnished very plainly but functionally. Or, normally functionally, perhaps, as he currently has half the contents of his closet strewn around the room and is in the process of looking underneath his futon-mattress for hide or hair of your presence. Chortling, you leave him be and hop down the stairs to find a new hiding place.
It doesn’t take you long to find something interesting.
Having slipped past a casually-guarding-the-staircase Droog, frozen in time whilst perusing a newspaper of some form, presumably this morning’s edition, you have wandered into what you assume is the living room. Or, what is now the living room. It hits you only now that the presumed homestead of the Midnight Crew must once have been a gleaming bar, a speakeasy that went under perhaps, the large room that is greeting you now in a state of fantastic disrepair. Dust everywhere, wallpaper peeling in various places, the wooden floors scuffed up something fierce, not a bit of the brass that had once decorated the room shining at you in the light from the low bar lamps.
Any tables and chairs that had once occupied the room had been mostly removed, leaving room for a vaguely sectioned-off open area, with couches and armchairs in various states of disrepair scattered pell-mell near the fireplace which is frozen in a low state of flame. The bar area itself seems to serve as the kitchen for the crew, as it is one of the only areas that looks fairly well-kept. That, and the far corner of the room, on the other side of the fireplace, where sits a lovely grand piano, almost as dark as the shells of the men who own it, slightly dusty but clearly beloved.
Oh, that is going to be perfect.
You reach into your pocket and click the watch again, but not before glancing out the door to make sure Droog, tucked away in the corridor in the back, isn’t going to notice you right away. Satisfied both that he has his back to the door to this room and that he’s going to be too busy reading and expecting you to come down the stairs at some point, you welcome the little woosh in your ears that means time has started again, and walk yourself over to the collection of musical instruments.
A handsome floor bass sits on a stand behind the piano, taller than you are, and you have to resist the temptation to reach out and pluck at one of the strings. Nearby, a half-oiled oboe sits on a wooden chair, as though its owner had been called away in the middle of the task. What really catches your eye though is the best-kept item in this room, quite possibly in the whole house, shining brightly in the glow cast from the low fire: a meticulously well-groomed saxophone. You have a feeling that the state of each of these instruments would tell long stories of each of their owners if you had the desire and skill to really inspect each one, as you have a funny feeling already which belongs to whom, but you decide it will just be more fun to learn about the members of the Midnight Crew from the men themselves.
To this end, you wander over to the fireplace and sink into an armchair that basically tries to swallow you whole, the springs so broken and cushions so overstuffed that you are surrounded by slightly dusty upholstery at once. You grin, giggling as quietly as you can, and wait.
It takes maybe ten minutes for anything significant to happen. You can hear Slick yelling about how he hasn’t found you yet, and Boxcars yelling the same back, and, grinning, you decide it’s almost time to alert them to the fact that you aren’t even upstairs anymore. You extricate yourself delicately from the man-eating chair and wander over toward the piano once more.
As you move, you hear Droog call up the stairs toward the rest of the crew. “She ain’t come downstairs, boss, so unless she jumped out a window y’ain’t lookin’ hard enough!”
You examine the large ebony instrument and decide merely sitting down and attempting to play the beast isn’t enough for you. Gotta have more flair.
“Well YOU go up there and look!” Slick’s voice reaches your ears, closer now, and then you can hear him plodding back down the stairs, footfalls unnecessarily heavy, as though he’s stomping with every step.
Droog sighs audibly. “Boss, get yer ass back up there and look for the dame like a calm, rational person.”
“Oh like you’re such a rational person when you’re being messed with like this. Bite me!”
Casually and carefully climbing onto the piano, you are having to bite your lip to keep from giggling, for between listening to Slick and Droog argue and thinking about what you’re planning, it’s really hard not to laugh.
“Boss, we share a short temper. We don’t share how we deal with it.”
A little menacingly, you can faintly hear the clicking of a gun’s chamber being extended and then put back in place, as though the gun’s owner is checking to make sure it’s loaded.
“…You aren’t allowed to kill her, Droog.”
“Not kill, boss,” Droog’s voice is calm but laced with something firey, fierce. “Just rough up a bit.“
“Leave it, boss,” Boxcars’ voice has joined the fray and you are even more thrilled for it despite the topic at hand. “Droog scares people before he has to shoot ‘em, you know that.”
Positioned properly on the piano, laying as sultrily you can lay (just like those pretty ladies in the movies!), you reach down and gently press one of the piano keys just to get the attention of the Crew, cutting Slick’s reply to Boxcars short.
“…Droog. You’re sure she didn’t get by you?”
“Boss, look at how big this corridor is and then ask me that question again.” Droog doesn’t sound happy, to say the least.
“No way she coulda slipped by him, boss.” Deuce’s voice pops up in the hall now, and you grin widely. Good. Gang’s all here. “Nowhere for her to go he couldn’t see!”
A few more keys are pressed, a sad mockery of a tune falling out of your fingers, and to your surprise it’s Boxcars that makes it through the doorway first, staring at you in some form of curiosity. “Y’ready to rethink that, Deuce?”
Slick barges his way into the room, closely followed by an armed Droog, and both men stare in absolute, bald-faced disbelief at you as you lay on the piano, draping your arm over your hip now that you’re done having to press keys. You grin your most tantalizing grin, already having too much fun for words. “Evening, boys.”