In case you haven't read the novels covered by the anime, Edward Noah is one of the FBI agents who cleans up after the Flying Pussyfoot incident in the anime along with his coworker Bill Sullivan. In the books, he appears a bit before that as a police detective; there's a bit of bad blood between him and the Martillo Family (and Firo in particular), but he gets moved to the Bureau of Investigation (the organization that would later become the FBI) shortly after the story starts.
If I'm not mistaken, this is Victor's first proper appearance in the series--though he did introduce Nile back in the color pages of The Children of Bottle--and man, what a first impression to make, eh?
The next prologue is coming tomorrow, since technically I have most of it done already and just need to brush it up a little.
Alice in Jails - Prison Episode
Color Pages & Epilogue I
Chapter 1 Front
Chapter 1 Back
Chapter 2 Front
Chapter 2 Back
Chapter 3 Front
Chapter 3 Back
Chapter 4 Front
Chapter 4 Back
Chapter 5 Front & Back, Connecting Chapter, Remaining Chapter
Alice in Jails - Streets Episode
Peter Pan in Chains
A Basement Somewhere in Manhattan
It was a name. His name, actually. The name his parents had given him.
He didn't reply.
The man sitting across from him seemed to take it in stride, even chuckling good-naturedly.
"Look at you, Prochainezo. You could pass for the star of a Broadway musical. A comedy, that is."
"...If you're that envious of me, you and me can switch anytime, Detective Noah," Firo replied, a complex combination of anger and disdain flashing across his face as he raised his head.
It was a young face--an observer would have paused, unsure of whether to label him man or boy. Dull silver handcuffs encircled his wrists.
His hands weren't the only part of him held captive. He looked around again, taking in the room he was in. It wasn't hard. It was a small room.
He couldn't tell what the room was for, or even the purpose of the structure that housed it, for that matter. He'd gotten off the car and found himself staring at a building that could have been any one of the dozens like it dotting the outskirts of the city, and what's more he'd been hastily shooed inside and into the room before he could do more than take a quick glance around.
A single mirror hung from the wall. There were no windows, and the only door was on the far side of the room. Blank concrete and red bricks came together to form the walls, seeming oddly out of place in the light of the naked bulb that illuminated the interior.
Motes of dust drifted lazily through the light, and Firo unconsciously began to breathe shallower as he imagined the fine granules filtering into his lungs.
"...Your new office is kinda crummy, if you ask me, though on second thought I guess that means it suits you just fine. You sure your bosses didn't get tired of you being a pain in the ass and send you here just to get you out of the way?"
Edward Noah just shrugged and grinned, ignoring the clear note of derision in the young gangster's voice.
"You've got my most sincere apologies, Prochainezo, but this place's a bit special, so I'd be obliged if you could just grin and bear the shabby interior decoration."
"...Huh. You've changed, Detective."
"What do you mean?"
"The old you would've gone red as a tomato already. Never could take a joke," Firo said, the maturity in his voice belying his youthful appearance.
If anything, Edward's grin widened. "You've changed too, Prochainezo."
Firo kept his silence.
"The old you would never have come with the cops so quietly."
Firo looked away, unwilling to meet his old adversary's gaze.
"...I didn't wanna make trouble for the Family."
Edward snorted. "Well, if that doesn't bring a single tear to my eye, I don't know what will. Understandable, I guess. I suppose that tiny little organization's the only home a sewer rat like you's ever known."
"I'd appreciate it if you left out the part about tiny and little. Though then again, I guess that to the almighty U.S. Bureau of Investigation, most any Family'd look small. Or wait, what do they even call you these days? You guys just can't make up your mind, can you," Firo shot back.
Edward spread his arms wide and nodded. "I know exactly what you mean, Prochainezo. The Division of Investigation doesn't even have the authority to arrest suspects. But that's all going to change next year. We'll be the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Though personally, I suspect most people'll just call us the FBI."
"...Sounds pretty fancy. But in the end, isn't it just another name in a long line of 'em?"
What Edward called the FBI had originally been created as just a single office of the United States Department of Justice, but less than three decades after its inception it had grown far beyond its humble roots, expanding into a sort of national police force that spanned the entire country.
The current head of the bureau, J. Edgar Hoover, had taken the director's seat in 1924 and had immediately set about bolstering the strength of his new responsibility, transforming the then-obscure Bureau of Investigation into a household name. Soon enough the bureau was tasked with fighting the rapidly proliferating gangs of the Prohibition Era, becoming one of the Department of Justice's greatest tools in the war against organized crime.
"It's gonna be a hard year for thugs like you," Edward said smugly, leaning forward to look Firo in the eye. "The Firearms Act'll make sure of that. Does it piss you off, knowing you won't be able to hold fireworks shows like you used to?"
"...I don't use guns, so it's no skin off my back."
The National Firearms Act of 1934 was actually a law that had been passed specifically to bring the violent activities of America's organized crime families under control. Designed to restrict access to the weapons favored most by gangsters, the law placed heavy taxes on guns such as the iconic Thompson submachine gun and the deadly short-barreled shotgun, as well as on the various extensions that would normally accompany such firearms.
"I didn't think the law'd even place restrictions on silencers. What, are you trying to drive all the innocent civilian gunsmiths in the country out of business?"
"Can't say I know any innocent civilian gunsmiths who make a living off of devices designed to help assassinate people," Edward retorted lightly, chuckling. "Speaking of making a living, how's life treating you? Must be hard making ends meet, since you can't squeeze people dry in exchange for illegal alcohol. Isn't that how your 'Family' operates?"
"Sorry to disappoint, but we're doing just fine without the booze."
"And that little playground they've got you running?"
"Look," Firo said, the muscles in his jaw twitching, "I know you really wanna enjoy your once-in-a-lifetime chance to gloat, but give it a rest already."
Edward opened his mouth to shoot back a reply, but the sound of the door opening stopped him short.
"Ah. I see you're getting along nicely."
A man stepped inside, and then another, and then another, making the already small room feel even smaller.
"Hum. Nice to meet you, would be the polite thing to say, I guess. I'm Bill Sullivan," the first man said slowly, and together with his droopy, half-lidded eyes, the way he spoke gave the impression that he was perpetually on the verge of falling asleep.
"Mmm. This big fellow over here is Mr. Donald Brown. The one with the glasses is Mr. Alan Becker. I can see you're already acquainted with Mr. Noah. We're all, hmm, coworkers, I suppose, yes," the man said, and though he seemed friendly enough, the two men standing behind him might as well have been carved of stone for all the warmth they showed.
"Hmm... Don't let them get to you, they're like that with everyone," Bill said after a moment of silence. "We need hard men, sometimes, for hard work."
Bill moseyed over next to Edward and leisurely cleared his throat, then opened up the folder he held and began to read aloud in measured tones.
"Ah, let's see. Firo Prochainezo. Age twenty-two. Single. Born in Hell's Kitchen. Born to an Italian immigrant father and an American mother, and, oh. Both parents deceased, of tuberculosis. My condolences. Mmm. Left Hell's Kitchen upon the death of his mother, wandering the streets of New York. An unspecified amount of time later, through unknown means, followed in his father's footsteps and entered a mafia organiza-"
"It's not a mafia," Firo said. He hadn't even flinched at the mention of his parents' deaths, but now he looked up and fixed Bill with an icy glare.
"It's a camorra."
Firo Prochainezo was not exactly what one would call an upstanding human being.
He was a gangster, a living symbol of what the 1930s would come to represent in American history.
But he wasn't a part of a mafia, not a member of the great criminal families of the Cosa Nostra that held the United States in their thrall. Instead, the organization he pledged his loyalty to was called a camorra.
Unlike the mafia, who hailed from the island of Sicily, the camorra came from the mainland, from the Italian city of Naples. Their hierarchies, methods, and even the businesses they employed to make money often varied quite markedly from those of the mafia, but in the United States--particularly among civilians, who had only the vaguest idea of the workings of the criminal underground--the two words were more or less treated as synonyms.
Firo Prochainezo was a capo, or officer, of one such camorra. It was called the Martillo Family, and it was a very small camorra. Indeed, Firo was a capo, but so were almost a dozen others; truth be told, a full quarter of the Martillo Family members shared Firo's title.
As the Family's youngest executive, Firo had been entrusted with a small underground casino, and he took his job seriously. He would not hesitate to give his life for the Family in case of an emergency, and likewise, he was fully prepared to take the lives of others if they proved themselves a threat to his brethren.
Even when Edward Noah had taken him in with the excuse of obtaining an eyewitness report, he'd taken care to keep from mentioning anything that might possibly reveal anything about the Martillos. He was probably had faith in his ability evade any questions about the Family or the small casino he ran.
Behind Firo's youthful teenager's face lurked a mobster, a man familiar with violence and the dark alleys of the city. That man now came to the fore, shedding his boy's guise to glare coldly at Bill Sullivan.
It was the face that Firo Prochainezo hid from the light of society.
"Ah. Yes, of course. Camorra. My apologies. I got it wrong on purpose," Bill said, and smiled. Firo bared his teeth in an answering smile, and inside, he designated the man as an enemy.
"Just be careful not to get caught alone on our turf at night, pal."
"Duly noted." Bill seemed to take the warning at face value, and then continued as though nothing had happened. "Now, as you already know, we've called you here tonight to, hmm. Let's see. Oh, right. We wanted to ask a few questions about the vandalism incident that took place at the Mist Wall last year. Oh, and don't worry, we don't have a warrant for your arrest yet. Mr. Noah, please don't bait the young man, okay?"
Firo frowned and glanced surreptitiously at the two men Bill had called Donald and Alan, then looked again to the man standing before him.
This guy rubs me the wrong way.
Bill's last throwaway comment made no sense, unless one presumed that he'd been listening in on the conversation. The room was probably under surveillance.
"Bill, be serious." It was the stocky man Bill had called Donald.
Edward seemed to take Bill's jab in stride and merely shrugged, unconcerned, but the man wearing glasses chuckled and patted Firo lightly on the head.
"Don't let him get to you, kid. He likes to poke fun at youngsters like you."
"Hey! Hands to yourself," Firo snarled, shaking off the hand and turning to glare at its owner. "And don't call me kid."
The man was definitely not young, but on the other hand the words "middle-aged" seemed far too stodgy to describe him. He was a man who seemed full of energy, one who truly gave off the impression of being in the prime of his life.
He shrugged off Firo's deathly glare and took the seat across from him, and then deliberately leaned backwards, the chair creaking as it supported his weight on two legs.
The animosity in Firo's eyes turned to confusion as he tried to process the man's strange behavior.
Alan Becker, was it?
He seemed extremely self-assured, almost arrogant. Firo wondered who he was and why he was acting this way. Was Becker just lording his position of authority over him because he was a suspect? His brow furrowed with concentration as he tried to make sense of the situation, but then he took a sharp breath and looked at him anew.
What the hell?
For a moment it had felt like he knew the man sitting across from him.
But he knew for a fact that they'd never met before, not once in the twenty and some years since he'd been born. He knew that, and yet...
And yet, the face was in his memories.
The man grinned, as though he could read Firo's mind and see the understanding slowly dawning within.
"You should be more careful, Firo Prochainezo," he said. He raised his right hand, opening and closing it before Firo's eyes. "Why, if I'd been feeling hungry... You would've been lunch."
Those words served as the final catalyst, and Firo finally remembered for certain who the man in front of him was.
His memories hadn't lied to him.
He'd never met the man lounging in the chair before him in his life.
But at the same time, he remembered him clearly.
To be accurate, the alchemist he'd devoured with his right hand, Szilard Quates, remembered him.
Firo Prochainezo was not exactly what one would call an upstanding human being.
Actually, it would be more accurate to say that he might not be a human being at all.
Four years ago, he and his companions had gotten caught up in a struggle between alchemists, and had come out of the experience as immortals.
Unlike normal humans, any wound Firo received would heal instantly.
The passage of time had no effect on his appearance.
Regardless of his own intent, he was now fated to live forever.
He could not die, unless another immortal placed their right hand on his head and devoured him.
He could be stuffed inside a barrel and thrown into the sea, or chopped into pieces and mixed in with molten iron, and still he would live.
That was the kind of being Firo Prochainezo was. It was his third face that he hid from the light.
"The demon's rules had a few loopholes, you see," the man who'd been called Alan said, shaking his head ruefully. "I can't give a false name, but someone else can certainly introduce me with one. Neat, isn't it?"
"Victor... Victor Talbot."
Firo sifted slowly through the memories of another man, trying to remember.
Victor Talbot was an alchemist. He'd been there along with Szilard Quates and many others when Maiza had summoned the demon and received the elixir of life.
It seemed, however, that he hadn't been all that friendly with Szilard or any of the alchemists Szilard had devoured, for their memories seemed to peter out after that point.
He couldn't blame them. He wouldn't want to be friends with an arrogant greaseball, either.
The thought made Firo pale, as he realized just how close he'd come to death.
"Heh." Victor seemed to find it amusing, if anything, when Firo said his name. "So the information's true, huh?
He stared straight into Firo's eyes, grinning fiercely, and said, "You really are the one who ate that fucking geezer."
Firo didn't reply, but in his head he sighed.
Dammit, he knows who I am. What kind of information is he talking about?
As though he'd read Firo's mind, Victor slapped the table with the palm of his hand and began to lay down his cards.
"You know that girl, right? Ennis, I think her name was? That girl the old man made."
Firo took a sharp breath despite himself as the name passed Victor's lips. His entire body tensed like a tightly coiled spring, the only outward sign of the turmoil that gripped him inside.
"...What about her?" he said, neutrally. He knew he couldn't afford to play Victor's games, but on the other hand it wasn't like he could just ignore the man after an obvious jab like that.
Ennis had once stood against him and Maiza as Szilard Quates' underling. Quates had held her very life in his hands, but with his passing that power had been passed on to Firo. Though of course, he couldn't very well do anything with it, since he'd fallen head over heels for her at first sight.
"Haha! Relax, buddy. I'm just saying, she was always at his side; we knew she literally couldn't live without him. But one day, the old man disappears and she turns up living with someone else. You. When I first heard about Szilard's death, I figured Maiza'd finally grown a pair and decided to get some revenge for, you know, the murder of his goddamn brother, but alas, I was gravely mistaken. So I did my homework and what do you know, your name came up."
Firo scoffed. "Musta been hard. I'm guessing you don't do that often."
Naked disdain suddenly made itself clear on Victor's face. "What was that, punk? Where the fuck do you get off, thinking you have the right to fucking talk back at me like that? Mafia, camorra, I don't give a fuck. You're all a goddamn menace to the United States and that's all I care about."
Victor's rimless glasses gave him an intelligent air, but the way he spoke wouldn't have sounded altogether out of place in a back alley. He slapped both hands down on the table and leaned forward, glaring at Firo.
"Listen up and listen good, street trash. You think I'm being an asshole now, you're gonna be crying like a baby when I really get started on you. Let me tell you what kind of guy I am right now so that we don't have any complications down the road."
Victor smacked his palm with his fist and burst into a heated tirade.
"You know what I think about punks like you? About you gangsters strutting around in your fucking fedoras and fucking trench coats like fucking kings of the fucking world, like you honestly believe you're fucking, I dunno, kingpins of crime? I'll tell you right here and I'll tell you right now, I hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate gah-" Victor stopped, coughed, gasped for breath, and continued without missing a beat. "Hate hate hate hate hate hate hate you all, got it? Some of you might be nicer than others, some of you might only steal from the rich and give to the poor like Robin Fucking Hood, and some of you might just be poor schmucks who got dealt a bad hand by fate and you're just trying to make a living the only way you know how, but you know what? I don't fucking care. I'll treat you all the same, because I hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate gah-"
Firo stared at Victor as he hacked and gasped for breath, looking at him as though he'd grown a second head.
"Sheesh, don't rant 'till you run out of breath, dumbass. And twice? What are you, twelve?"
"Don't call me a dumbass, dumbass! And what does that make you, since a dumbass has you at his mercy?"
"You know I'm an immortal, right? Did you ever think I might've tried to put my right hand on your head while you left yourself wide open?" Firo asked. He'd calmed down enough to gather his wits once Victor started ranting, mentally reassessing the situation. He'd been caught off guard before, but now that he knew what Victor was, he felt that the playing field was more than even. He might even have a chance of bluffing his way out of the mess he'd found himself in.
There was about a yard between him and Victor. If he kicked up the table and darted in underneath it, he figured he had a pretty good chance of getting his right hand on Victor's head in the confusion, cuffs or no.
He would decide what to do depending on how Victor replied.
Victor, though, only snorted derisively, showing no surprise and no revealing openings.
"Are you fucking joking? Look, kid. I know you think you're a real hotshot, but are you seriously trying to go head to head with me as an immortal?"
"How are you being any different right now from a goon who threatens a detective with 'I'll gouge out your eyeballs with my thumbs'? You honestly think that sort of small-time threat would work on a representative of the nation's judicial system?"
Damn. Looks like he's not totally an idiot.
It wasn't that Victor's retort had shut him up with sound logic. It was the fact that sometime during Victor's rant, the other agents in the room had surreptitiously moved into position around him.
What sort of signal Victor had given them, Firo didn't know. But while Victor had held his attention, Donald Brown and Edward Noah had stepped to the sides of the table and now stood flanking it, while Bill Sullivan had leisurely wandered behind Firo and now stood smoking a cigarette behind his back. Victor himself had shifted his center of gravity so that he sat poised to spring to his feet at a moment's notice, his right hand straying close to his waist.
"Are you serious? If I make a move for you right now, they'll end up shooting you too," Firo said, but Victor just sneered back at him.
"That's the plan, idiot. It'll hurt like a bitch, but I can just take it out on your hide once I saw off your arms and legs and lock them in a safe so they can't get back to you, and then we'll see who's the sorry one."
"It's not like immortality actually gives that many advantages. Might as well make the best of 'em," Victor sneered, and Firo decided then and there that the time for words was over.
It was time to show them what he could do.
Thought became action, and in one fluid motion he gripped the table in his cuffed hands and surged to his feet, the muscles in his legs and arms working together to send the table flying. All four legs left the ground as it rose into the air.
The fact that it was made of wood didn't mean that the table was light, and the act of lifting it perfectly counterbalanced the force with which Firo had sprung to his feet, keeping him from lifting off, himself. The table was still in the air when he crouched, looking under the airborne appliance and toward his target.
Who wasn't there.
The only sight that greeted his eyes was the chair and the wall behind it. Victor was nowhere to be seen.
Where the hell is he?!
He couldn't do more than glance wildly around once before the table came back down upright, having done a full flip in midair to land squarely on its four legs once more.
A distinct click reached his ears.
A black hole yawned wide before his eyes. It was the muzzle of a gun.
"Sit back down, why don't you."
Firo slowly looked up from the muzzle and saw Victor squatting on the table, staring back at him down the length of the barrel.
The fed smirked and said, "Yeah, you're just like our info said. You're impatient, impulsive, and confident to the point of folly in your ability to just fight your way out of most sticky situations."
"...Is this what they teach you in the Bureau, or did you go out and find a circus to teach you those acrobatics?"
"Hah! That was the bare minimum of what we learn to chase and arrest nefarious enemies of the state like you. Any detective who's gone through basic training could do what I just did without even breaking a sweat, as graceful and beautiful as a swan in flight!" Victor cried, puffing out his chest proudly.
His underlings, however, didn't appear to share the sentiment.
"Err. I'm sorry, sir, but I don't think anyone in our department can do what you just did."
"We'd never get any new people in the department with minimum requirements like that."
"Sir, please come down from the table. You're going to get it dirty."
"...Fine, dammit. I've got half a mind to fire you all for failing to support an agent in need," Victor muttered, and holstered his gun, clambering down to the floor. "And if you must know, well, I meant to jump up all along, but the landing on the table thing was luck."
An odd and awkward silence fell over the room.
At length Firo sighed and opened his mouth. "Alright. Whatever. We both know that the 'vandalism' at the Mist Wall or whatever is bullshit, so let's get down to business. What is it you want me to do?"
Certain events that had taken place last year had led Firo to a skyscraper called the Mist Wall, and eventually he'd gotten involved in a grand ruckus that had ended with most of the top floor getting blown to smithereens.
It was a long story with many parts that came together as one whole, the machinations of multiple organizations, people, and immortals coming to a head in one complicated and dizzying whirl of action and violence. It had been a grand but secluded event, one that had revealed many truths and hidden away twice that number.
Ennis and Firo had gotten dragged into it mostly on the whim of a man known as Christopher. They knew, of course, who had actually been behind the bombing as well, but strangely the police hadn't seemed to consider it a pressing problem at all. In fact, they'd seemed mostly content to leave him alone, and pretend the explosion had never happened.
When Firo mentioned offhand how strange it was, Maiza had just shaken his head and said, "I've heard a senator who's working with Nebula did some work behind the scenes and made sure it got covered up."
And so a year had passed without incident, and just when Firo had been least expecting it, the police had shown up on his doorstep.
Dammit, I should've made the first move instead of letting them come to me.
He berated himself for his foolishness, and Victor grinned as though to agree with Firo's self-assessment.
"Oh, we don't want anything, really," Victor said, making a show of looking innocent. "I just thought I'd offer you a vacation."
"Yup. I'm talking about a resort on the west coast, near the glorious city of San Francisco. It's a relaxing island getaway, nothing there but the sky and the waves. Tempting, isn't it? Who knows, you might even meet one of the movers and shakers of your world there, and you'll be able to enjoy as much peace and quiet as you want, because nobody there's allowed to talk."
A bad feeling started to creep up on Firo.
The words Victor had deliberately chosen had special meaning to Firo, a member of the criminal underground. Double so considering they'd come from the mouth of a federal agent. And the last part had been too blatant to be ignored, even if Firo had wanted to.
The pieces of the puzzle came together in his mind, leading him inevitably to one location.
And as though to confirm the feeling of foreboding that had overtaken him, Victor smiled brightly and uttered the four words that sealed Firo's fate.
"Ever heard of Alcatraz?"
Prologue I End