Chapter 1: Prologue
Let's start with what we know, all right?
A number of months back, a private investigator named Patrick Sloan took a case from a young lady like any other, looking for protection from some lummox she'd played the Polski Pony with and who didn't take too kindly to her sampling some other fellow's pierogi. Most cases like this end one of two ways. First way, when the John gets told he can't see the dame, he decides he don't like getting delayed, he tries to stage a raid, so Sloan leaves him splayed, gets paid, maybe even gets laid. The second way, lady realizes the John was her desire, has second thoughts about her hire, tells him he's fired, Sloan's tired, wonders if he should retire. Pretty standard stuff, the bread and butter of a sleuth in a world that doesn't much take kindly to independent sleuthing.
Except this case ended in a third way. The lady went missing. Forever. Neither Sloan nor the beefbrain knew where she went. And the next case Sloan takes ends up taking a similarly tricky tack. Then another. Then another. Word on the streets becomes that Patrick Sloan can't properly protect his clients. Business dries up.
His associates find him a lead. Seems there's a new upstart in town. Drugs, disappearances, trashing “protected” properties, that sort of thing. But the only name that gets tied to this is just three letters. DMK. Patrick Sloan's associates, Peter Inesco and “Ace” Dick Dunn, end up tying these initials to the disappearance of at least one or two of Sloan's missing clients.
So it seems that to get anywhere to the bottom of this, Sloan needs to get all the way to the top. But how do you get at a Don when you can't even put a face to the name? Or a name to the name, for that matter. Well, Sloan thinks, if it takes a thief to catch a thief, it takes a kingpin to catch a kingpin. And everyone knows there's only two names in town with that kind of clout: The Felt's main man, Lawrie English, and the Midnight Crewster of many names, Jack Noir. These two have been locked in a turf war for some time, as both their legitimate business practices seem to come in conflict. Rumor has it that their supposed illegitimate business practices had called something of a ceasefire.
It all seems a bit tenuous, Sloan's figured. Maybe one of them would be willing to provide a favor in return for tipping the scales. But who to side with? Not a difficult choice, considering that English wasn't taking visitors, no one having seen the man in public in some eight years or so. Even if that weren't the case, The Felt seemed to be composed mainly of asocial weirdos. Either way, striking a deal with the boys in green seemed neither efficient nor desirable to Sloan.
The alternative was also not particularly desirable, as Sloan's colleagues continued to remind him, but Sloan was a man with no convenient options. So he pulled some strings and scheduled an appointment with José Vantas, president of Vantas and Son Real Estate, and nom de guerre of Jack Noir, Spades Slick, Blackjack Vance and all sorts of other cute monikers. He decided to sit down, adult to adult, man to man, and convince him to do things tit for tat.
This didn't go well.
So he shows up uninvited to a meeting of the Midnight Crew. This time he makes sure that his words are backed up with bullets, and his bullets are backed up with more bullets from more guns carried by more people.
This also didn't go well.
Luckily, it caught the attention of Paolo Diamante, aka Diamonds Droog, the coldly fuming second-in-command of the Midnight Crew. He decided shrewdly to dispense with the tension and stop the macho posturing and take Sloan up on his offer. Masterminding a brilliant plan, Diamante laid out the strategy by which the gangster squad and the sleuth team would take the Felt Manor by storm.
The idea of this dreamteam sat like oatmeal and sour milk in the guts of everyone involved. But in the end, it seemed the most logical course of action. Sloan needed an angle at the DMK, something only the mob could get him. Slick needed English's claws removed from the sensitive parts of his metaphorical behind. So maybe nobody does what they want. But sometimes morals have to be put aside in times of war. So with heavy hearts, but heavier wallets, everyone set off to spend their last day before the raid as they will.
But we covered all this before. I just wanted to make sure we were all on the same page.
Because from here on out... well, things get a little dicey.
Chapter 2: Peter Inesco Awakens
The morning sun oozed cheerily into a room above Donnelly’s Olde Time, where it greeted four very hungover friends, heaped in a pile on the large bed, their eyes struggling to cling to the night. Peter Inesco was the first to wake fully, and a dim sense of happy satisfaction at everything that happened that night crept into his heart. Of course, it was followed by mortified embarrassment, which efficiently muscled its way past. And then severe terror followed suit, as the recollection of his upcoming plans tipped its hat as well.
He quietly and shakily rose to his feet, stealthily dressed, and made to leave. It did not do to be around others when so many emotions swirled throughout his being. But as he opened the door, he cast a look behind him and found himself rooted in place. On the bed, nestled next to Henrietta Donnelly, dishwater blonde hair glowing like a halo in the early morning sun, was Nadine Beaumont.
He sighed gently. He had only met her the previous night, but in the hours they spent together, with Henrietta and Patrick Sloan and the poetry of their hearts for company, they had fallen quite rapturously and mutually in love. He couldnt just leave without a word. But he also could not bear to say goodbye. It was terrifying to consider that he may never see her again, and he had not the courage to burden her with this knowledge. And yet, she had a right to know. To know how he felt. To know what may happen. And to be given the promise, if he could in any way do so, that he would return to her.
Looking frantically about in search of paper, Peter found a book on a shelf in the room and scribbled a quick but thorough letter in the inside cover. He plucked a cloth rose from the false bouquet next to the bed and slipped it like a bookmark in the space by the inscription. The book he then tucked next to a teddy bear that sat on her suitcase.
He smiled in spite of everything. She was a mature and brilliant woman, this much was abundantly clear, but she had innocent sweetness to spare. Perhaps the teddy bear was her way of keeping calm in spite of the chronic nervousness they had discovered they shared. They were so very alike, Nadine and Peter, and it seemed like fate meeting her here. Like life had required them to become so very close so very suddenly.
He cast a longing look at her, gently nodded to the unconscious forms of Patrick and Henrietta, and stole out of doors to reflect until sundown.
Chapter 3: "Ace Dick" Dunn Awakens
On the other side of town, where city streets gave way to the wider lanes of near suburbia, the sun here too made its way into the home of others involved.
Here in the bedroom of Mr. and Mrs. Richard “Ace” Dunn, Mrs. Richard “Ace” Dunn was nestled tight and safe in the arms of Mr. Richard “Ace” Dunn. Winnifred stirred contentedly against her husband in the early morning light. She rolled over slowly and kissed him awake. Together they greeted the morning, then rose, bathed, and dressed together. They cooked a hearty breakfast and woke their son, who waddled sleepily down the stairs in his superhero pajamas, complete with purple cape and cowl.
“Oh, Sonny,” Ace said over eggs, sausage, and waffles, “before I leave for work today, I wanted to give you a present.”
“A present, Pop?” Hearst asked.
“That’s right, son.”
“Gee whiz, Pop! It ain’t even my birthday or nothin’!”
Ace laughed loudly. “No it ain’t. But a father’s gotta spoil his child sometimes, right?” He reached under the table and pulled out a full-sized Louisville Slugger, wrapped with a bow. “See? It’s a bat, Hearst.”
Hearst gasped. “Golly! Is it mine? But it’s a whole bat!”
“Ace tousled his son’s hair. “You’ll grow into it! Practice with that and the things we talked about last night, and you’ll go real far, kiddo.”
Winnifred looked at Ace meaningfully. “Well, playing with a baseball bat and learning to punch are two very different things, yes?”
“They have more in common than you might think, sweetie,” Ace said. “But I’m just making sure he’s got his bases covered.”
“Haw haw! Bases! Good one, Pop!”
Ace smiled at his son and looked at his beloved family. Visions of everything he feared flashed through his mind. But then so did visions of everything he loved about them. And then, in that moment, he knew.
He knew that, come hell or all its horrors, he’d be coming home alive.
Chapter 4: Nadine Beaumont Awakens (And, In Doing So, Awakens Two Others)
It wasn't until then that anyone else above Donnelly's awoke. That someone else was the young Nadine Beaumont, who had just had the most magical night of her life. Nervous and alone in a new country, terrified of all the risks she had undertaken, she managed to very quickly prove all of her doubts wrong. Rather than be lost all by herself in the new world, she had quickly made a firm friend, who soon introduced her to more. This included a handsome young man who felt more like home than any countryside or cityscape she'd ever known. She came to know these new friends in ways she never expected she would, and yet it had felt so utterly natural, like they had been in that room together her whole life.
So she was quite distressed when, upon awakening, the new most important person in all the world was not in bed with them as he should be. Panicked and very self-conscious, she wrapped herself in a blanket and shook Henrietta awake.
"Etta, Etta," she whispered tremulously.
"Henrietta rubbed her eyes sleepily. "What seems to be the trouble, dearie?"
"He is not here, Etta," Nadine whispered.
"What's going on?" Patrick asked, groaning with the effort of waking up.
"Peter... your friend... my... He is not here," she repeated, tears forming in her eyes.
"Oh heavens," Henrietta said. "Here, let's get you Herr Brun before we go any further."
"Herr Brun?" Patrick asked with the raspy voice of one who used up all of his enjoyment hours previously.
"Mister Brown," Henrietta whispered to him.
"I know what that means," he whispered back.
"Oui, Herr Brun, my bear," Nadine said, nodding and hyperventilating. "He will help."
"If you're French," Patrick asked, "why is your teddy bear German?"
"If you are a detective," Henrietta growled at him, "why is it you can't find your manners?" She stood and trotted over to the suitcase, a loosely draped bedsheet trailing behind her, and plucked the proudly perched plush from his parcel promontory. "Here we come, here come Herr Brun," she began in a singsong voice, which abruptly stopped as it was met with a thud.
"What was that?" Patrick and Nadine asked, more or less in unison, though not at the same speed or in the same language.
Henrietta looked down and blanched when she saw what had caused the noise. "T'weren't nothing," she said quickly, unable to move.
Sloan stood and crossed to the suitcase, pulling his trenchcoat on like a bathrobe. "It didn't sound like nothing." He bent down to pick up the source. "See, here, a book."
"It isn't!" Henrietta shrieked.
Patrick and Nadine froze and looked up at her.
"Well, I've never been confused for an intellectual," Patrick began slowly, "but I do happen to know a book when I see one." He reached down and picked up the book that had started this whole commotion. "And I can say with reasonable confidence that this is a book. See? It has a title and everything."
"It doesn't have!" Henrietta squeaked.
"Sure it does. Look here," he said, her pleas for him not to speak the words printed falling muffled as if spoken to a frozen arctic wasteland.
Everyone's eyes widened, his included, as he read the title aloud, and time itself stood still as the words hung in the air. Silence fell. Nobody moved. Not even cleared their throats.
After a moment that lasted eleven centuries, Patrick repeated the title.
Colin the Cabin Boy and the Seven Seamen, a Novel of Nautical Frivolity in Three Parts, Being Part the First, In Which the Spaces Below Decks are Explored Many Times Over
Henrietta whimpered and covered her face with her hands, as if that could possibly hide the force with which it burned.
"Light reading, eh?" Sloan asked slowly.
"It is so good," she replied behind her palms.
Patrick opened to the middle of the book and paged through a chapter, his face, too, starting to flush. "Can I read this when you are done?" he whispered.
"Take it," she whispered back. "I've read it eight times, I have."
"Herr Brun, please?" Nadine pleaded weakly.
"Of course," "To be sure," "He's yours, sweetheart," "Deepest apologies, dearie."
Henrietta and Patrick stumbled over themselves and each other to hand her the bear, and in doing so tripped on their limbs and sheet and coat, sending the both of them and the book hurtling through the air in Nadine's direction. This was mortifying, of course, not only due to the thematic content of the literature, but also due to the fact that it was not itself a tome of insignificant weight, and the threat of Nadine sustaining injury did not seem unrealistic in their minds.
She surprised them, however, by deftly catching the novel with impressive reflexes and natural ease. "What is this?" she asked, noticing a false flower tucked in the page, and she opened it.
"No, child!" Henrietta reflexively cried.
"But look!" Nadine exclaimed. "Something here is written!" She scrunched up her face and focused enough to read the shaky handwriting that crawled across an otherwise blank page. As she did, she began slowly to realize what was written. She read the scrawlings as one might breathe in the aroma of a mug of freshly brewed coffee on a truly frozen morning in January. The words, intensely loving and intensely French, filled her heart and mind and soul with violins and bonfires and starlight, and she felt as if she were once again in his arms, as she had been all night, the only arms that could ever hold as much feeling as hers. He face painted a metropolitan museum of emotions as she read, but as her reading neared toward the end of Peter's note, she began to appear more somber.
"Patrick," she asked slowly, as if in a daze.
"Yes, doll?" he replied, awkwardly suspended from the bed by his chin and elbow and otherwise sprawled on a combination of the floor and Henrietta.
Her voice began to quiver again. "You are planning something dangerous, yes?"
Henrietta shot an indignant glare at Patrick.
He shrank and tumbled fully onto the floor. "I won't lie to you, sweetheart," he mumbled, "I don't think any of us have a good feeling about this."
"What are you planning, you venomous sleaze?" Henrietta hissed at him.
"I can't tell you," he muttered, unable to look either of them in the eyes.
A pall laid heavy upon the room, like a blanket of snow next to a factory in a Charles Dickens novel.
Nadine shook, but she began to breathe again, clinging to her senses and her teddy bear. "But..."
"I should have known..." Henrietta rumbled.
"I ain't got no choice, see?"
"But!" Nadine exclaimed. "But you care about Peter, yes? And he cares about you?"
Patrick blinked and looked at her. "Well of course, sweetheart. He's the best person I've ever met in my life, present company excepting."
"And you care about Etta, yes?"
"Well when you put it that way..."
"Then you will bring him back to me, and you will bring you back to her, yes??"
Both Patrick and Henrietta were speechless for a long time.
"I won't lie to you anymore," Patrick began after a moment. "Pete, Dick and I are getting involved in something difficult. Dicey. Dangerous, I suppose." He chewed on the side of his thumb. "I ain't never feared anything quite the same way I'm fearing what's to happen tonight, with the possible exception of what I'm feeling at the present moment." He reached out for Henrietta's hand which, to his surprise, she gave to him gently and warmly. "But this is our only option. It's either this, or nothing. Lots of good people have already been hurt. And my own livelihood, well, it looks to be on the line as well. But..." He inhaled and exhaled a few times before continuing. "I don't know anyone in the world more reliable than Pete and Dick. I believe in them more than I could ever believe in myself, in the laws of the universe, or in the breadcrumbs they've got locked up at Our Lady's. And if I can count on them, then you know they can count on me. And we've never backed down before, and we won't back down now. And our new friends, well..." He rubbed his earlobe with his free hand and squeezed tight with the other. "I can't say I trust them, but I got a feeling about some of them. And I can tell they've all got a lot at stake and won't go down easy neither. So if there's any way anyone up there is even glancing in my direction, I swear to God and I swear to you, Nadine, and you, Henrietta. None of this means a goddamn thing if we don't come back alive. So I'm coming back. And so is he."
Chapter 5: Molly Painter Was Already Awake
Of course, Molly Painter was awake already. She had her own job to do before the morning was out: pay a visit to her employer's home and settle a few things.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
When Molly Painter arrived at the Vantas home, nobody was around to greet her. This wasn’t terribly out of the norm, however, considering the freshness of the morning. Mr. Vantas didn’t much care for live-in servants, preferring to hire a maid service for weekly cleanings. Young Carter -- wait, sorry, Karkat -- Mr. Vantas had informed her that he wished the boy to be referred to by whatever name he preferred, which was, of course, not particularly unusual of a request, as Mr. Vantas himself had gone by a few different names over the course of her employment under him. Sorry, where were we? Ah, yes. Young Karkat typically preferred to be left alone in his room and was typically not to be bothered. And Mr. Vantas himself, well, he would get in his moods and have the itch to roam, so he frequently would not be found at home.
Naturally, then, she had her own key to the estate, and would easily let herself in without knocking. She slipped by the master bedroom and confirmed that the bed had not been slept in. Mr. Vantas must have decided to wander again. She wondered for a moment where it was he spent the night, but she quickly tucked away that unprofessional thought. They may be relatively close as far as employers and secretaries go, but it was still unseemly to wonder about the nocturnal habits of ones boss.
Next she moved to the study, where she found, as informed, two unsealed envelopes and one sealed one. Into the first, she placed a very thick bundle of papers that had been held closed with binder clips. Into the second, she placed a much smaller packet, only a few pages. The first one, she had never seen unopened, and she was far too good at her job to read things that were not meant for her. The second, of course, she had transcribed herself. She sealed both envelopes and wrote the name Karkat P. Vantas in gentle cursive script. She then arranged them neatly on the desk, and prepared to leave.
She paused. She still had an hour before her flight, and something bothered her. Mr. Vantas and son were not necessarily on the best of terms. How could she be certain that the young man would find these parcels? It would probably be prudent to inform the boy that he had documents awaiting him. Should she knock on his door and awaken him? No, probably not. It had only taken one of Karkat’s truly legendary shouting fits to inform her that he liked his privacy. The boy himself was, otherwise, relatively cordial to her. In fact, they had once bonded over a some of their shared topics of literary interests. But he had a personal space requirement that did not do to violate.
A note, then. These she was always prepared to create. Molly first made as if to take a piece of stationery from the desk, but she thought better of it. After all, considering the mood of things lately, it wouldn’t hurt to appeal to the boy’s sense of fun. He liked stories of searching for clues, so he would probably find something torn out from a notebook more enticing than a page of professional parchment-printed paper. She giggled to herself as she pulled her stenographer’s pad from her purse. He’d probably get a kick out of something that no other houseguest could read, too.
She gently but quickly scrawled a note in Gregg shorthand -- which a few of his detective stories had encouraged him to look into -- and tore it perfectly out of her notebook. She smiled at it, then frowned for a moment. Something was missing.
Ah, yes, that’s it! With expert precision, she tore the top of the page off much more haphazardly. There! That is a clue that will pique his curiosity! With pride, she folded it up and quietly tiptoed down the hallway to deliver it to his room. Gently, but quickly, under the door it slid. She made sure the stove was off and everything was locked, and then locked the door behind her as she left.
And that was that! The last thing she had to do before her vacation. Gosh, when was the last time she had taken a vacation? And the Bahamas, too! With a lot of money! She couldn’t wait to tell Mr. Vantas and son all about her trip when she got back.
Look, you guys have been ridiculously patient with me. It's been almost a year and a half since I updated. The past two years kinda kicked my butt. But I'm making a lot of progress, and thanks to you wonderful kiddos, I decided it's time to make my triumphant return back to the fic that started it all for me! Here's to updating more soon!
Chapter 6: Clinton Duccio and Heinrich Bachman Awaken
And then they go for burgers.
It was mid afternoon before Clint Duccio and Hank Bachman woke up. They slowly dragged their hungover carcasses from the black oblivion of drunken repose, which is really just a fancy way of saying that they still weren’t quite sober. After seeking out as much water as they could sink into their systems, the two slowly dressed into slightly less dirty clothes.
They didn’t talk much as they prepared. They had said all they needed to say last night, and many things they didn’t. When you knew someone as long as Deuce and Boxcars knew each other, you didn’t need to fill the silence anyway.
The best cure for a hangover, as any red-blooded American man knows, is a red-blooded American cheeseburger. Luckily, this lined up with the timeline. In order to throw any interlopers off the trail, Duccio and Bachman were to take the van around town innocuously. And what’s more innocuous than two men swinging by the best burger joint in town, buying some burgers, and going to town on the burgers at Burgertown? Nothing. Very little, at the very least. Innocuous to the fullest. Not inconspicuous, neither, but that was the point, you see. Be seen. Be noticed. If anyone was noticing. Or cared to take notice. Burgers. Nothing to it.
After burgers, the sweet surge of protein and lipids combating the dull ache of minor alcohol poisoning, the two caroused a bit further. They drove around a bit more, stopping to pick up smokes or throw away wrappers or clean out the van or relieve themselves on trash cans. At least, that was the front. See, when they pretended to do these things, they were stashing supplies. Bachman was able to conceal his modified gatling cannon in the old, beat-up case of a stand-up double bass, which he chucked into a dumpster about a block or two from the southeast corner of the grounds of Felt Manor. And all around the surrounding city blocks, in an uneven circle that embraced the Manor with the same steady confidence that you might have used when you were twelve years old to embrace your elderly aunt back at the annual family New Years party and she had spent the whole afternoon before you got there snacking on plastic-jug vodka and pickled herring, Duccio was able to stash plastique and powder kegs for easy access once the sun went down. Throughout this part, they did their best to not look at the Manor, but also to not look like they were trying not to look at it. Not that they had to work too hard not to stare; neither Duccio nor Bachman had a particularly pleasant pit in their pancreas when they looked at the vine-wrapped mansion.
Not that they were scared, you see.
It’s just that they were terrified.
Chapter 7: Enough Pussyfooting Around
Well I suppose it's been drawn out about enough, hasn't it?
We've seen the aftermath of a pleasurable evening among Patrick Sloan, Henrietta Donnelly, Nadine Beaumont, and Peter Inesco. We have seen Ace Dick Dunn spend time with his family. We have seen Hank Bachman and Clint Duccio spend a day of mayhem, meat, and misdirection. We have seen Jack Vantas' secretary Molly Painter organize papers and safely exit the scene. And we can probably infer that both Jack Vantas and Peter Inesco have each separately gone to spend their day doing… something. Brooding, probably, who gives a shit.
In any case, we have just about established just about everything that just about everyone has done leading up to the night of the heist. The plan necessitates that they get things down to the minute and maintain the barest amount of radio, so I won't bore you with what they do until then.
Eleven O'Clock approaches.
I'm sure you don't have any other questions.
Chapter 8: Approaching Eleven
Minutes to eleven, Peter Inesco takes his position to the northeast. He is mostly sobered, certainly enough to fire a sniper rifle, and has not cried in the last half hour. He is steady, steeled, and stoic -- well, as much as he can be any of those things, but he does his best. He sets the gun case on its side and opens it. He runs his hands over the gleaming metal -- matte black in reality but a weapon of this quality always shimmers in his eyes. He hasn't used anything like this since his days in the Academy. Crime certainly must pay , he thinks, and the thought settles in his stomach like a month-old doughnut. He takes it out, feels its weight, letting it slide right into place the way he was trained. Most things terrified Peter Inesco. Shooting a man never did.
He settles into his post. He can see the rear of the mansion -- its north face -- and the eastern side. The lights are not on in any of the windows. Whatever could be said about the inhabitants of Felt Manor -- and quite a number of things have been said -- it seemed they maintained a strict policy on bedtimes. After doing a quick sweep with the scope, he radioes in his signal.
"Skipper," he says, and that's it.
Within moments, the radio crackles a perfunctory, "Dignitary."
And now , Peter thinks, to wait .
Chapter 9: Approaching Midnight
A little less than an hour later, Ace Dick Dunn puffs into place. It's a heavy gun in his case. The heaviest he has ever used. He can use it, though. And the gun may be big, but this late at night, this part of the city, no one is passing by to see it. He pulls it out of the case and puts on the strap. With one free hand, he radioes, "Coarse hair."
A short silence.
"Corsair?" Peter Inesco's voice asks from the radio.
Another short silence.
"Brute," the radio says in the voice of the big German brute.
At least these bozos are in the shit too , Ace thinks.
It's the last thing he thinks before he falls unconscious.
Chapter 10: Approaching Twelve Thirty
At about 12:21ish, Patrick Sloan finds his way to the rendezvous point. There, waiting for him with all of the warmth of a meat locker, is Jack Noir Vantas, the creme de la crime himself.
"You showed up," Jack scowls with a whisper.
"You say that like you thought I wouldn't," Sloan says back just as quietly, checking his pockets to make sure the knives were all in place.
"I still don't know you," Jack says, "and for all I know you could still turn out to shovel shit on the Yellow Line when things go lemon."
"You have such a way with words," Sloan says, lighting up a cigarette, pulling in a drag and then letting it out. "I'm more likely to turn down tail than I am to turn tail. I'd have hoped I'd have proved that by the time we got to this point."
Jack snatches the cigarette out of his hands and throws it on the ground for a vigorous stomping. "What the daisy-driving fuck are you thinking?" He takes a moment to make sure its out, then he checks his own pockets for the right knives and pulls one out for emphasis. "You wanna be spotted, do it on your own time. We're on the clock. No unnecessary light. No unnecessary radio."
"I figured since nobody knows we're coming," Sloan says, his hand still poised where it once held the smoke, "that it wouldn't hurt to act natural."
"Yeah," Jack says, turning away and straightening his coat. "Yeah fine, I just don't wanna risk it." He cleans under his fingernails with his knife, which most men wouldn't attempt in this level of darkness. "I just... got a bad feeling is all."
Sloan raises an eyebrow. "Well I got a bad feeling too, Slick," he says, very slowly. "It's an armed assault, not a candygram for the Queen."
"It's a goddamn siege on a walled city," Jack mutters to himself.
"What was that?"
"Rambling. Don't worry about it."
Sloan put a hand on his shoulder, which Jack swatted off. "No one knows we're coming," Sloan repeated.
"Yeah, I know, dipshit," Jack says, examining his own sleeve.
"You're not looking me in the eye," Sloan says with the tone and the face of a plumber who has just laid a finger on the problem in the toilet tank.
Jack turns and looks him in the eye. "That's because I don't like you."
Sloan breathes a little bit easier, and he smirks. "Well that's a damn shame, because I was warming up to you."
"Yeah, I'll bet," Jack says with a huff. "Maybe when all this is over you'll try giving me another picture of yourself shirtless."
"I've only got the one," Sloan says, his smug expression twitching under the memory. "Anyway, it's about time, wouldn't you say?"
"Yeah, fuck it," Jack says, and he takes out his radio. "Admiral and Straggler," he says into it.
"You know," he says to Sloan, "we never did tell them to say anything back."
"It's fine," Patrick says, loading his tommy gun. "We've just gotta trust that they've got our back. I'd trust my guys. Don't you trust yours?"
The two of them walk toward the gates of the manor, keeping to the shadows, and slip quietly and easily over the walls.
"On three," Jack says, "We run to the door."
Sloan nods. "And on three again," he adds, "we kick it down together."
Jack nods back. "Okay. One?"
The two of them bolt towards the entrance of Felt Manor, a large, imposing double door of lacquered green. It is dark, unlit, but their footsteps are swift and sure, and they close the distance quickly.
"One!" Sloan pants, midstride.
Almost there. The doors threaten to fill their vision.
"Two!" Jack breathes, matching pace.
Patrick visualizes what the next second will bring. If they both see themselves following through, no doors can stand in their way, not even huge, thick, reinforced ones like these.
"Three!" They shout together.
But the doors have already been flung open.
"Good evening, gentlemen," is the last thing Sloan hears before everything goes black.
Chapter 11: Patrick Sloan Awakens
Or rather, minutes pass.
Or better yet again, minutes passed. Minutes passed in what seemed like hours. Minutes passed and what passed in the past passed and the past became the past and the tense became the past tense again, like it was when this whole sorry story started in the past. It felt like years had passed. Like six whole goddamn years had passed since this fiasco began, since Patrick Sloan waltzed into Jack's office with half a brain and half a plan. But it hadn't been six years. It had been six days, at most. And yet here things were. After all of the trouble, all of the secrets, all of the associates, investigation, lifestyle and plans -- for Patrick Sloan, things had finally come to a head.
And Patrick Sloan had finally come to.
He opened his eyes. He sort of figured it'd hurt a little more to do so, but the lighting was surprisingly dim. Which is not to say that it didn't hurt. It just hurt about as much with his eyes open as it did with them closed -- which, yes, was rather a fair amount, if he'd be pressed to admit it.
"Your head? How is your head?" came an unfamiliar voice.
"It's fine," Sloan said, blinking and unfocused, trying to remember where he was and how his eyes worked.
"I am relieved to hear that. It would not do to have you feeling uncomfortable," the voice continued. "I trust that your wrists and ankles are fine as well?"
Wrists and ankles, huh? Sloan checked. They wouldn't move. It felt his hands were tied behind his back. Which was probably because his hands were, in fact, tied behind his back. Behind a chair? Yeah, behind a chair. And his ankles were tied to the legs of that very same chair. "Comfy as hell," he said. What was that voice? He didn't know who it was, yes, but unfamiliar didn't actually seem like the right word. Why did he…
"Superb. I am grateful to hear it. I have not had guests in a good long while," the voice said, "but it seems that after all this time, I continue to be an excellent host."
Chapter 12: A Few Loose Ends First
I know I said it had been all drawn out enough and that I wouldn't bother mentioning what everyone had been doing leading up to the beginning of the heist, but I think it might be necessary to explain a few more things that happened over the course of the evening, just so that we are all on the same page for concurrent events.
For instance, Karkat Vantas -- the questionably adopted son of Jack Vantas, our eponymous legitimate businessman -- had found the secret clue left behind by Ms. Painter, though how he noticed a scrap of paper lying around in the tremendous mess that populated his room was anyone's guess. He opened it up and scoffed. That lady clearly thought of him as still some kind of kid. A clue? A code? Kid stuff, and she should know better.
He quickly deciphered it with nothing resembling glee. It wasn't even hard. It was just shorthand. He didn't even love every moment of it with all of his heart. Not even a little bit.
But the deniable joy of understanding the clue was tempered by remembering that Jack might be doing something very risky tonight. Not that he cared what happened to Jack. Well, he was all right, sort of, but it didn't really matter. The problem was that if Jack was up to some dumb shit, and if he really was in the goddamn motherfisting mafia, then Karkat couldn't be sure that he himself would be safe. He'd have to take some steps to make sure he was protected. Of course, he could protect himself -- he was number one in the world at kicking ass and taking long, leisurely strolls down the beach of kicking more ass -- but if things got especially hairy, it couldn't hurt to find someone else to watch his back.
But first things first. He followed the instructions on the clue -- the note from Ms. Paint, let's be serious adults about this -- and found that she had laid out all the papers and bundles that needed his attention. He quickly tucked everything into the portfolio he carried around with him everywhere -- no serious adult would be caught dead without a portfolio, of course -- and made sure there wasn't anything amiss in the study. After a thorough search, he found himself satisfied and not at all even a tiny bit disappointed that there were no further clues left for him, and he packed up his bag for an overnight trip to the home of the one person that he knew always had his back.
This line of thinking was also held by both Henrietta Donnelly and Nadine Beaumont, who were similarly aware of the gravity of the situation. Henrietta closed the bar for the duration of the day and night, and she and Nadine locked themselves in the lodging room to keep each other company. For protection, Nadine held onto her loyal teddy bear, Herr Brun, and Henrietta held onto her loyal two-by-four, which didn't have a name on account of being a two-by-four. Henrietta assured Nadine that they would be quite safe in the room, and they had nothing to worry about, and she only had the two by four to slap the shit out of Patrick Sloan and Peter Inesco when they came back in one piece, the cryptic bastards. In the meantime, they could entertain each other by telling stories of Henrietta's most interesting patrons, recounting tales of Nadine's voyage to America, and reading passages from Colin the Cabin Boy and the Seven Seamen .
The anxiety that affected Nadine Beaumont and definitely did not affect either Henrietta Donnelly or Karkat Vantas ventured nowhere near the house of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Dunn, as Mr. Richard Dunn had absolutely not told them any specifics of the upcoming evening. Therefore there was no special measure to reinforce the doors or windows beyond the usual locks, because why would there be? Winnifred tucked her son into bed, cuddled up with his brand new baseball bat. She smiled. When she was his age, she'd have preferred something soft to cuddle with, but boys were boys, and that was its own special mystery, wasn't it? When she tucked herself into bed, she also wished she had a certain someone soft to cuddle with, but she was used to Richard being gone for nights due to the nature of his work. And she did always worry about him when he was gone, but she also knew that if he ran into any trouble, trouble had the misfortune of also running into him. After all, the first time she saw him, he saved her by beating the stuffing out of the fellow who had tried to mug her. She drifted off peacefully after easing her own tension, vividly recalling the day they met.
Speaking of peaceful sleep, down at Diamond Estate, the butler Arthour had been given the night off, and he decided to celebrate by turning in early. Both the master of the house and his daughter would be back tomorrow, and if he did not have to serve them, he may as well catch up on sleep. He nodded off quickly and dreamed all night of horses.
All right, I think that about covers everything we needed to know. Thanks for hanging in there. Where were we again?
Ah, yes, that's right. Vinny Shakes.
Chapter 13: Vinny Shakes
"Vinny Shakes," Sloan whispered through gritted teeth. So that was who the voice belonged to. The very man who had opened the door before they could kick it in, who had greeted them before… whatever happened. It was Dr. Vincent Schath, the public face for the second biggest name in crime in town.
"Vinny Shakes," said the man himself with a soft laugh. Sloan's eyes still hadn't adjusted to the light, but he could see his captor pacing in front of him, passing in front of some lamp or something at the other end of the room. It was irritating and made it even harder to see. "I have not heard that one in some time. You are aware, no doubt, that my detractors in the media and the underground called me that because of the tremors my hands developed during my addiction recovery. I wonder, Mr. Sloan, if you know what they called me before that. When my habit was so transparently at its peak. Have you heard my other nickname, in all your investigation?"
"I can't say that I cared half enough to even ask."
"That is too bad. I have been talking to our mutual friend, Mr. Vantas here, while you were out." The shadow of Dr. Schath motioned to Sloan's right. There, tied up beside him in another chair, was the hunched and seething form of Jack Vantas, who had duct tape over his mouth. "We had been making small talk, you see. We have not had the chance to catch up in years, and doing so has proven so fascinating. It seems he has taken to reading -- which certainly proves that it is never too late to change one's ways -- and reading Sun Tzu, no less. The Art of War. An absolute classic in every way. It is a very interesting book, Mr. Sloan. Have you read it?"
"Why are we talking about this?"
"Because if you had read it, you would remember the most important passage. 'Know your enemy, and know yourself,' it begins. I should think that a private detective of your calibre would have taken the time to know his enemy. Alas. It seems that in all of your desperation to get to the bottom of your problem, I worry that you have neglected to actually get to know your enemy." He walked over to Jack and ripped the masking tape off.
" FUCK," Jack shouted, and he spat in Schath's face, which Sloan still couldn't see. "What the fuck was even the point of taping my mouth shut if you were just going to rip it off again? That hurts, you shit son of a twat!"
Dr. Schath patted Jack condescendingly on the head and walked away again, his back still turned. "Enlighten him, Mr. Vantas. Surely you remember what they called me, back when I could not help but claw at my arm for want of the needle."
"Yeah, I remember."
"Please tell him. I do hate to have something like this hanging in the air unsaid."
Schath turned around and walked towards the captured men. Sloan could finally see his face, the same as it had been in the photographs, except for a very large cut down one side of his face. It looked recent. "I must admit," he said, "I always had a soft spot for that name. It conjured up images of the devil -- the way people in this part of the country used to refer to him in their quaint, folksy tones. But there was always fear and reverence in the way they called Satan 'Old Scratch,' and I must admit, no one would have cared to mock me if they did not envy what I had."
"Yeah, it's a real fuckin' nice place you got here," Jack sneered.
"Thank you," Schath said with a gentle smile. "I am pleased you find the accommodations to your liking. I must admit, it would not be quite as nice if had you managed to break in the door as you had so brutishly planned."
"You know what they say about the best laid plans," Sloan muttered.
"They often go awry, do they not?" Schath replied. "I was very pleased to be able to prevent it. I cannot imagine how terrible this place would look had I not known for days that you were coming."
Chapter 14: Just Girly Things
"Hey Kanaya?" Karkat asked.
"What is it?" his best friend responded.
"What in the name of Satan's three left tits is that?"
Kanaya turned from the mirror where she had been adjusting her makeup to see what Karkat was pointing at. "Oh, on the table? That's a chainsaw."
"Oh, that's a chainsaw?" He said, motioning to the chainsaw that was sitting on the table next to Kanaya's bed. "Are you certain that's what it is? Are you positive it's not a tube of lipstick that fell out of your makeup bag?"
"No, Karkat," Kanaya said with the absurdly patient voice she always somehow used, "I'm quite certain that's a chainsaw. I have checked."
"Kanaya, I know you're a deeply intelligent and extensively educated human being, so I know you fucking know that I have seen a stupid goddamn chainsaw before. So yes," he growled, as was his manner of speaking when not shouting but not trying to be particularly quiet, which was always somewhat hilarious to hear coming from a boy whose voice had not yet dropped, "I know that that is a chainsaw, and you know I know that that is a chainsaw, and I know you know that I was not asking what it was, but rather the true meaning of my question, which you know I know you know you could deduce from context clues, was why in the shitpissing Christ is there a chainsaw on your bedside table, so please, I beg you, I implore you, answer the question that I fucking implied rather than the question that I fucking asked."
"You said we might need need something to protect ourselves."
"I meant like baseball bats or kitchen knives or something. The kind of shit a normal person would have lying around their house."
"This was lying around my house. My mother keeps it in her room usually, but she lets me borrow it when she's out of town."
"Do you even fucking know how to use a chainsaw?"
"Of course I do," Kanaya said, a note of offense in her voice. "I am a capable young woman after all."
"What kind of woman uses a chainsaw?"
Kanaya got a faraway look in her eye and smiled as she said, "My kind of woman."
"All right, fine, forget I asked," Karkat said with a huff.
To her credit, she did, and she went back to peacefully fixing her makeup in the mirror.
A quiet moment passed, made all too brief by Karkat's complete inability to be silent. "Why do you even care about your makeup?"
"I'm going to forget you asked that, too."
"But it's just me, and I don't give half of a quarter of a shit what you look like."
"You said we might have company," she said, still focused on her task.
"Yeah," Karkat grumbled. "Except for the part where I said they might be trying to kill us."
"Still," she said, applying her setting powder, "it's important to make a good first impression."
"I think a chainsaw is less for impressing than disemboweling."
Kanaya got another far off look in her eye and smiled again. "Impressemboweling."
Chapter 15: On the Subject of Smells
Both Sloan and Jack snapped to attention at Schath's comment, looking him dead in the eye.
"Bullshit," Sloan said, and he turned his head to Jack. "He's bullshitting us. I've seen it a hundred times before. Big shot wannabes like him always try to make themselves seem like they know everything. Pretend they can see the future. But it's always a power play, nothing more and I'm sick of it."
"I am afraid it is not a ploy, my honored guest," Schath said, and he moved in close to turn Sloan's face back by the chin -- a motion far more unsettling than Sloan wanted to admit. "In fact, not only did I know that you would be here tonight, but I also knew when, where, and how."
Sloan suppressed a shudder, forcing himself to remain cool. He rolled his eyes and then stabbed his glare right back into the eyes of the former surgeon. "Spare me the tick-tock, Doc. If you knew we were coming, you'd know that taking us on by yourself is suicide. I've got an army of backup waiting for me to report in, and if they don't hear from me soon, you're gonna be plugged up to your pipes in pinkertons. Nah, I'm not even a little fussed by this. I can smell a bluff with my nose stuck in a barn door, and this one stinks worse than Jack's attitude."
Schath looked at sloan in amused bewilderment. "Young man, if there is a stench here, it is surely because of your own lies rotting in the air. I am afraid you are quite mistaken if you think you can fabricate anything tonight. You do not have an army of backup, unless you count less than half a dozen associates as an army -- a number that is starting to dwindle, I am afraid."
"And just what the hell is that supposed to mean?" Sloan asked. His voice, despite his best efforts, was starting to betray the dawning horror that was creeping through his body.
"I am so glad that you asked," Schath replied. He straightened up and called out to someone unseen. "Mr. Ichiro, if you please, would you bring in the guests we welcomed earlier?"
Chapter 16: The Things He Knows
There was a great shuffling and banging around a few rooms away, from what Sloan could hear. If the Felt had actually captured… No, it didn't do to dwell on.
Not that he had time to do so. Schath's unnervingly evenly-toned gloating went on. "While my protege is bringing in our friends, I suppose it would not go amiss for me to remind you of some of the things I know."
"Save your breath," Sloan breathed. "I don't wanna hear your lying ass any more than I wanna hear your farting one."
Schath shook his head with a small smile. "Ever the crass ones you two are, even in denial. Unfortunately, denial would not save your associates in detection, Messers Peter Inesco and Richard Dunn, whom you had carefully positioned at the northern corners of our humble property. Speaking of whom," he said, turning to face the commotion that was growing louder, "I am sure you will be pleased to see them in one piece."
The clattering reached a head as a door opened. A young Japanese man in a green suit and a bowler hat held it in place as two similarly dressed, much larger, and ambiguously European men passed through it, each dragging something that made Sloan's lungs wrap tight around his heart.
"Thank you, Mr. Ichiro," Schath said with a nod to the man who opened the door, "Mr. Eggers, Mr. Bozkecz." The three men left, leaving behind two unconscious piles, bound as tight as a damsel left on a train track. Schath motioned to the first. "I'm sure you recognize Mr. Inesco."
Sloan wanted to gulp down the horror in his throat, but he just couldn't. That was Pete all right, and Ace next to him, both tied up and out to lunch. If Sloan didn't know any better, he'd think his friends were dead, but he was able to force that thought out of his mind. If they were dead, why tie them up? No, Schath was the kind of guy who seemed to want them alive.
And the bastard's monologue continued. "Peter Inesco, of course, is a matter of public record, thanks to his attempts at becoming a police officer. Further information about his life and disposition was quite simple to obtain from our esteemed colleagues in local law enforcement."
Sloan started to protest, but Jack cut him off. "Save it, sleuth. Don't be a naive piece of shit. We've been paying off the cops -- you're not so much of a dumbass to assume they aren't too."
Sloan shut his mouth and clenched his teeth.
"It may also interest you," Schath went on, "to know that your tall, nervous friend is not the only fellow I know everything about." He nodded to the bundle next to Peter. "Richard Dunn, of course, has been a private investigator even longer than you have, Mr. Sloan. Granted, his skills extend more towards the personal protection duties for which people seek your sort out, rather than the particularly detailed inspections for which Mr. Inesco is known to excel. And you, of course, Patrick Sloan," he said with a gaze sharper than the knives that were missing from Sloan's coat, "strike something of a balance between the two -- although you are most well known for being able to talk your way out of some of your most difficult situations without ever having to throw a punch."
"I'm glad my reputation proceeds me," Sloan said without any gratitude.
Schath winced. "Precedes, Mr. Sloan. For someone known for your words, I must admit, I thought you would be better with them. Luckily for me, it seems I can be confident that your commanding charisma will not allow you conjure a conclusion to your captivity."
Sloan scoffed. "Where are you going with this?"
Schath tilted his head and smiled. "You wanted proof that I knew you were coming. I believed it would help you to know just how much I knew about you and your associates. Or should I discuss your acquaintances, like Mr. Dunn's wife and small child, or the charmingly accented staff and guests of the Irish pub that you are so fond of."
Sloan blanched. "You leave them out of this."
"Unfortunately," Schath said, taking a pale green handkerchief out of his breast pocket and pressing it to the cut on his face, "you are the one who dragged them into this. Truthfully, your decision to lead the esteemed Mr. Vantas to break his cease-fire with me has consequences far outside of you. Mr. Vantas, of course, was smart enough to have his lovely assistant flee the country. It is a shame he did not think to send his unfittingly ethnic son along with her."
"Fuck away from him," Jack said, his eyes wider than Sloan had ever seen. "The little shit doesn't even like me. If you killed me he'd probably thank you."
Schath clicked his tongue and shook his head. "Mr. Vantas, the time for any requests you had for me has long since come and gone. We had a deal. A truce. It had benefited you just as much as it had benefited me. There have to be consequences."
Jack seethed and choked through his next words. "He's just a fucking kid, you filthy animal."
"And if you had not broken our agreement," Schath said, "he would be in no danger."
That was finally enough to make Jack snap. He struggled against his ropes, screaming, "I'm going to cut off your head and use it as a cue ball!"
"No you won't, Mr. Vantas," Schath said with a self-satisfied tone. "Perhaps if you had caught us by surprise, you might have had the opportunity. Fortunately for me, however," he went on, very nearly grinning, "someone very close to you understood the value of loyalty."