Sorry this took so long to get out. Real life and lack of motivation hit me with a hard one-two combo. Enjoy.
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
It all started with Carnegie.
In the year 1901, Andrew Carnegie built a mansion on 5th Avenue, setting in motion the process that would transform the largely ignored street on the outskirts of Manhattan into a place of dreams. In the present day it was known as Millionaire Row, and it was filled with fantastic houses built by those who had gathered there, following the steel baron's lead. Most of them came from similar backgrounds as Carnegie himself, their immense fortunes built on a single generation's worth of shrewd business.
The street, like those who now lived on it, embodied the American dream of rags to riches. It became a part of that vision itself; those who dreamed of becoming rich and famous told themselves that one day, they too would build houses of their own on Millionaire Row.
Even those who argued that money wasn't everything had to acknowledge that there were indeed people who had found happiness through wealth, and that such people could be found living on 5th Avenue.
And in this place of fabulous riches and dreams come true, someone was crying.
It was a young man, the sad expression on his face quite the opposite of what one might expect from someone living in the lap of luxury.
"Oooh... Oh no, oh no..."
"C'mon, Jacuzzi. Stop that. You're crying so much you're making me sad too."
"Oooh... B-but... Ack... I mean, I-I-I'm so, sorry, Nice..."
The young man had his cheek pressed against a marble pillar, tears dripping down to soak the red carpet.
The fearsome tattoo on his face, shaped like a wickedly curved sword, might give a casual observer the impression of a hardened man, one who had little use for tears. But a closer look would reveal that he still possessed many traces of boyhood, and the weepy droop of his eyes made it easy to envision him crying his heart out.
The woman kneeling next to him, trying her best to stop his tears, also looked quite peculiar.
She was young, perhaps around the same age as the crying young man. She was pretty enough, but her looks were marred by the scar that ran down her face and over her right eye, and the black eye patch she wore over that. The scars and eye patch clashed with the smart pair of glasses she wore as well, giving her an appearance that was neither here nor there when all was said and done. Certainly not what one might expect to see on Millionaire Row.
And they weren't the only ones. Quite a few people were gathered in a loose ring around the strange couple, and they, too, looked like nothing less than a gang of malcontents from the wrong side of town.
"B-but, Nice, think about it... Mr. Graham, he's... he's..."
"Don't be so sad about it, Jacuzzi. If you keep on crying like that, he won't be able to move on."
The onlookers turned to each other, holding a whispered debate over what they'd just overheard.
"Hold up, what's going on?"
"The hell happened? Someone died?"
"Don't ask me. Jacuzzi was already crying when I got back."
"Speaking of which, don'cha think he gets worse with that crying the older he gets?"
"You think he might run outta tears soon?"
"Where do tears come from, anyway? I think I heard somewhere that they come from your brain."
"Ugh, Jesus. So it's like brain snot? That's creepy."
"Jacuzzi, talking about dying, crying. Cry... die. Mmm... Is someone dead?"
"Dammit, I dunno what the hell's going on. Hey, John, what's he crying about this time?"
"Oh, umm, well. You remember Graham Specter?"
"You really don't know about him? Well, he's something like the boss of the punks around this neighborhood, and back when we first came to New York we had a bit of a scuffle with him. Then he helped us out once, and we had a bit of an adventure together, and now he's sort of backing us up. Turns out he's a good person, and a fast friend."
"Huh, never knew about that."
"Well, you should. You know the warehouse at the docks we use as a hideout? Graham gave that to us... though, then again, I suppose the land technically belongs to someone else, so we're using it without permission anyway."
"Wow, I never knew that either. So why's he crying? This Graham guy dead?"
"Of course he's not. If this was actually something serious Nice would've given him some time alone to deal with it."
"Wha? He's still alive? But didn't Nice just say something about him 'moving on' just now?"
"She meant 'moving on' to Chicago, silly."
The rest of the gang suddenly gathered around John, inviting themselves into the conversation as the name of their old haunt passed the Irishman's lips. They still thought of it as their home; they'd only been forced to leave because of a conflict with the local mafia there.
"What'd you just say? Chicago?"
"Wait, that Chicago? The Windy City? Hey, I think I've heard about that place."
"Maybe 'cause we used to live there, dumbass."
"Man, I miss it already."
"You think they remember us?"
"You think the Russos're still around?"
"I wonder when we'll get to go back."
"Why d'you wanna? You ask me, I'm fine with living it up in this big house for good."
Jacuzzi heard none of what was going on around him, still preoccupied with the matter that weighed on his mind.
"But Nice, it's all my fault! Mr. Graham had to expand because we took up part of his turf! And that made him move in on a big gang's territory, and nuh, now they're after him and I dunno what to do and-"
"That's why he hoofed it over to Chicago, and now that he's there he's safe. I told you, don't worry about it."
"B-but he said he was going to help these mafia guys he knew... and then he, he told me to take care of myself because he might never be coming back, and, and, I couldn't stop him, but I can't go back to Chicago to help him either, and, but, and, what am I gonna do..."
Jacuzzi continued to sob pitifully, running himself ragged and talking himself into a corner.
The rest of his gang sighed and settled in for the long haul, waiting for Nice to finish the arduous process of getting Jacuzzi Splot out of a proper crying jag.
There was one person in the house, though, who wasn't content to sit and watch. She strode up behind Jacuzzi and bopped him smartly on the head with the book in her left hand.
Jacuzzi started and looked up, tears still flowing down his cheeks, and saw a blonde woman frowning sternly down at him.
"What're you thinking, Jacuzzi? If you keep crying so much, you'll wipe out that pretty painting on your face!"
Caught completely flat-footed, Jacuzzi reached up to feel his tattoo despite himself, his breath catching in his throat. His fingers came away unstained, but he couldn't help but turn to Nice and make sure.
"I-is it still there? Did I smudge it?"
"Don't sweat it, Jacuzzi. I don't think I've ever heard of anyone crying off a tattoo."
The tattoo meant a lot to him, and Jacuzzi put a hand to his forehead and breathed a huge sigh of relief once he was sure it was safe and sound, his face lightening as though a great weight had been lifted from his chest.
Miria smiled and said, "See? Doesn't it look so much prettier now that you're not crying anymore?"
And how could he keep crying in the face of such a sunny smile?
Miria was actually a little older than Jacuzzi, but her carefree cheer made it honestly hard to tell who was older between her and the members of Jacuzzi's gang.
Jacuzzi wiped his tears away and smiled back at her. "Of course! What was I thinking, sitting here crying over something like this when Isa-"
He froze like a rabbit caught in headlights as his friends transfixed him with heated glares, their gazes chastising him in lieu of words.
Jacuzzi sat there with his mouth hanging open for a moment, realized just what he'd been about to say, and gasped, glancing at Miria's face.
"Umm.... Err... Miria...?"
Her hair hid her face from view, making it impossible to read her expression, but from the slump of her shoulders it was obvious that the sunny disposition from a moment ago had vanished.
"Isaac," she whispered, so low that it would have gone unheard, if not for the sudden silence.
The name, spoken like a plea, went unanswered. Perhaps that was too much for her to bear, for a choked noise escaped Miria's throat, and her shoulders began to tremble.
Ack, she's crying.
The teenagers around her looked away and shuffled their feet awkwardly, holding their breath and waiting for what would happen next. She'd probably burst into tears soon, her face crumpling with grief.
But instead Miria swallowed hard, forcing down the sob that threatened to escape. Biting her lip, she turned away and grabbed a nearby doorknob.
"...I won't cry."
"No, I'm fine! Sorry for making you worry. Not like I could solve anything by crying, right?"
She whirled in place to look at them, and the smile on her face then was the same as ever. But the way she talked more rapidly than usual, almost tripping over the words, made it clear that even the brave front she put on was a precarious thing at best.
"Isaac said he likes me more when I smile, and when Isaac's happy, I'm happy! So I'm not going to cry! So there!"
And with that she flung open the door and dashed out, slamming it behind her as she left in a flurry of frenetic energy.
The rest of Jacuzzi's gang exchanged uneasy glances.
"'I'm not going to cry'? Didn't she cry for like three days straight when she came here last month?"
"Yeah, I remember that. And then Jacuzzi went an' started crying right along with her. Yeesh, what a headache..."
"That's enough out of you all!" Nice snapped, and the chuckles died quiet, abrupt deaths.
"H-hey, easy, Nice. It was just a joke."
Jacuzzi watched his friends backing off, their hands raised to placate Nice, and a cloud passed over his face once more.
"Oh, I shouldn't have gone and said that. I-I'm terrible.."
"Jacuzzi! You stop that, too! You're just gonna start crying over nothing again!"
"S-sorry, Nice... B-but... oooh..."
And so it all started again, like a comedic farce. John sighed and shook his head, turning to the Asian man standing next to him.
"Come to think of it, Fang. It was Chane who stopped Miria's crying, wasn't it?"
"Yeah, was surprising. They never saw much of each other before then, yeah?"
"Mhmm. Where is Chane, anyway? I haven't seen her all day."
"Ah, Chane? She went out today."
John opened his mouth to ask where she'd gone, then closed it, arriving at the most probable conclusion on his own. Still, Fang chuckled and told him anyway.
"She go on date with Mr. Walken."
Madison Square Park
The young woman sat on a bench in the park near 5th Avenue, lost in thought.
Madison Square Park was like a splash of green in the middle of the slate grey city.
If one were to look up through the naked canopy of trees, the steel silhouettes of the Empire State Building and other skyscrapers of New York peeking through the leafless branches would have provided a fantastic, surreal sort of backdrop to the park's tranquility.
It was much smaller than Central Park, but that only made it feel even more like an oasis in a desert of concrete, attracting the attentions of pedestrians as they passed by and soothing their worries when they entered.
Chane Laforet sat alone in this verdant shelter, absently watching neighborhood children playing baseball in the last of the snow that had fallen the day before.
She was thinking of the events that had taken place a month ago, when one of Jacuzzi's friends had shown up on their doorstep.
Chane hadn't known Miria very well at the time, to be honest. All she knew was that the woman came to visit Jacuzzi and his gang every once in a while. Sometimes she would make mischief, and at others she would help out with whatever the gang happened to be doing at the time, basically maintaining a more or less affable relationship with her friends. Chane had heard that she'd once saved Jacuzzi's life, and the gang obviously seemed to find them welcome. Chane herself had no personal grudge against the woman either way.
But when she'd appeared at their door alone, Chane had immediately felt that something was wrong.
The man who'd always been by her side hadn't come with her. Chane wasn't that well acquainted with Miria or Isaac, but somewhere along the way she'd come to unconsciously think of the two as one being, only complete when they were together.
She'd thought to herself that maybe they'd had into a fight.
In that case, it was probably none of her business. Chane had turned away then, putting the matter out of her mind, but a couple days later she'd happened to overhear Nice discussing it with Jacuzzi.
"I don't think anybody's heard from Isaac since the cops got him..."
Jacuzzi practically fell apart upon hearing that, and Chane paused as well, stopping to listen.
She gave it a moment's thought and went to the room where Miria was staying.
Miria turned as she opened the door, her eyes still red and bleary. She'd obviously been crying recently.
"Are you alright?" Chane asked. She couldn't speak, but she carried around a notepad to write on that let her communicate her thoughts clearly enough.
Miria read the slip of paper she was offered and managed a weak smile.
"I'm fine... Sorry for being such a bother. It's just, someone told me our apartment isn't safe anymore, and I needed a place to stay. I'm sorry."
Chane just shook her head slowly. She herself hadn't thought of Miria as a nuisance at all, and she knew for a fact that Jacuzzi and his gang didn't see her as a burden, either. Nice often had her hands full with Jacuzzi, for the young man would hear Miria crying and burst into tears himself, but that was Jacuzzi's fault and not Miria's.
Chane peered cautiously at Miria, making sure that she was relatively stable, then wrote, "The police have someone very precious to me as well."
"Oh... Oh, I see. Is he your boyfriend?"
It was the first time she'd "talked" with Miria, but the other woman adapted to the quaint method of communication much faster than even Jacuzzi had, striking up a natural rapport with her near instantly. Miria's face was still wet with tears and she sniffled from time to time, but Chane paid it no attention, instead finding a great fondness growing within her for the woman who'd so readily accepted someone as abnormal as herself.
"...Then it's already been years and years since you saw him?"
"Almost four years."
"Wow... Weren't you sad, Chane?"
The movement of Chane's pen stopped for a moment as she gave it some thought.
It would be a lie to say that there had been no sadness in the space of those years.
But when her father had been taken from her, the only emotion that had boiled up inside her had been pure fury.
Rage had filled her, directed toward those who would dare take her father away. It had even led her to join forces with a group of terrorists who followed her father in an attempt to get him back.
Perhaps she'd only felt true sadness, and true loneliness, after she'd gotten to know Jacuzzi and his friends.
Their camaraderie had taken the edge off of her anger, and sadness had rushed in to fill the space left behind. But soon enough even that feeling of isolation had faded away, erased thanks to her new companions.
So unlike Miria, she had never sobbed into a pillow, soaking it with her tears. Perhaps if her father had been taken from her now, after she'd learned how to open her heart, things might be different. Perhaps if she were to lose her father for good, or if Jacuzzi, or the man to whom she'd given her heart, were to disappear from her life forever...
She didn't even want to imagine it.
Chane hesitated, wondering what to say, and in the end wrote a reply that wasn't much of an answer at all.
"Being sad would not bring him back to me."
"You're right... You're so strong, Chane!"
Chane couldn't bring herself to agree.
Was she truly strong? She'd never thought of herself that way. In fact, she thought to herself that people like Miria, who could cry freely when they lost those they held dearest, were much stronger than she.
Perhaps sensing her hesitation, Miria offered her a soft smile, comforting Chane despite the tears still streaking her own cheeks.
"You're waiting for him to come back, aren't you? Just like I am."
This time, Chane nodded immediately.
"That means we're friends!" Miria said, and a hint of emotion colored Chane's normally expressionless face.
Chane realized that she was even a little interested in hearing Miria's story. She thought it over for a second, then wrote her thoughts onto her pad in neat letters.
"Could you please tell me what he's like?"
Chane talked with Miria through the small hours of the night. Somewhere along the way, she realized that she was smiling.
The next day, Miria had ventured out of her room, offering the same bright smile to Jacuzzi and his friends as always.
Of course, sometimes she found herself thinking of Isaac, and she did cry when that happened, but she was still much more stable than she'd been at first.
And so Chane sat alone on the bench, thinking back and breathing a silent sigh of relief at Miria's recovery.
To be honest, there wasn't much that Miria could actually do at the moment. The police had Isaac, and the best thing to do would probably be to wait for his release. From what she'd overheard, it didn't seem like the crimes he'd committed were that severe, so perhaps he'd be out soon.
The same couldn't be said for her father.
He'd been arrested on charges of plotting acts of terrorism, but the truth of the matter was somewhat different. Nearly everything about Huey that the papers had reported, from his age to his exploits, had been faked.
As an immortal, her father was unable to lie about his identity, but other people had no such restrictions on lying about him, whether he wished it or not.
She knew that the people who'd arrested her father were probably interested in immortals like him.
It might be years before he was released.
Another immortal might even devour him, and then she'd never see him again. She didn't know.
The only information she had came from a group of people she'd met last year during the Mist Wall incident, a strange band who she'd been told worked for her father.
According to them, her father was not only alive and well, but able to give orders to his subordinates on the outside. It had definitely been cause for relief, but there was no guarantee that her father's relatively favorable situation would last forever. What was more, she had no idea what her father meant to do with his experiments.
Still lost in thought, Chane looked up, taking in the leafless branches, the glass and steel buildings that peeked out past them, and the cerulean sky that completed the image.
What should she do now, with her new knowledge of how the world worked?
Maybe it is my turn to ask them for advice.
She thought of Miria, and Jacuzzi, and Nice.
She thought of the person she was waiting to meet, the one who had first shown her how wide the world really was. The man she loved.
A good half hour still remained until the time they'd agreed to meet, and Chane spent the time staring absently at the tranquil sights around her.
The next moment, a flurry of motion caught her eye, as the birds that had been wandering around the entrance to the park suddenly took flight. Someone had arrived.
Perhaps it was him.
Rationally, she knew it probably wasn't, but still she couldn't keep down the expectation that made itself apparent on her normally expressionless face as she looked toward the entrance.
But instead of joy, tension seized her body when she saw the man standing there.
The black coat that covered his body could not hide the fact that he was obviously someone out of the ordinary.
He wore a black eye mask with a white aiming reticle stitched into the center, and he held two long canes in his hands as he walked leisurely toward her.
She'd thought him blind, but there was an odd sureness to his steps as he made a beeline for the bench where she sat.
She didn't know anyone who wore an eye mask like that, but for some reason she found the man familiar. Desperately she sifted through her memories, trying to remember who he was. The old wound in her right shoulder, long since healed, began to ache, and her brain warned her to be careful.
She wanted to do something--anything--but she knew that it would be the height of folly to act rashly when she still couldn't remember who the man was.
The danger signals her instincts sent her, though, had her slowly reaching toward her waist, her expression blank and cold despite the sirens going off inside her.
The distance between them now was only about five yards. Even if the man had a gun, she could cover the gap and take care of him before he could draw and fire.
She sized him up carefully, trying to predict his next move, but she wasn't prepared for him to suddenly stop, his face twisting in a derisive sneer.
"You reached for your knife just now, didn't you?"
"Heh! Heheh... heeheehee... haw haw haw!"
The sound of his braying laughter filled the gap in her memory, and finally she remembered him.
How... He should be dead...!
The man rubbed his goatee thoughtfully and grinned toward Chane, hurling insults her way.
"Well I'll be damned. Who would've thought a fanatic bitch like you'd be sitting here in this park, all lost in thought, pretty as you please like a goddamn painting?"
Spike had been a member of Huey Laforet's Lemures, a sniper who preferred lurking in the shadows to strike from afar.
Chane didn't even know if Spike was his real name; everything about his past was a mystery. All that the Lemures knew about him was that he was a crack shot with his sniper rifle, and in truth that was all they really needed to know. All that mattered to them were the results brought about by his bullets.
They'd worked together in taking over the Flying Pussyfoot, but in the end the Lemures had betrayed Chane, and Spike himself had left a bullet wound in her shoulder as a parting gift.
"Hmm, I wonder. What sort of expression could Huey Laforet's daughter have as she stares at me like a goddamn idiot? Maybe she's fallen in love with me at first sight, a delicate blush on her cheeks and tears in her eyes? Not that frigid bitches like you are my type, mind. Me, I like a doll who squirms when I hold her."
Chane held a hand to her right shoulder and wondered how she should react to this specter from her past. It was possible that he'd come on her father's orders, and in that case she couldn't exactly cut him down no matter how repugnant she found him.
"Whoa, whoa there! Hands off the knife, please! I mean, yeah, I know we had our problems in the past, but can't we let bygones be bygones?" Spike spread his arms wide in a sign of peace, but the words coming from his mouth told a different story. "It's not like I'm here to kill you, you know. Not today, at least."
Chane paused, wondering just what he was after. Maybe he had guns hidden inside his canes. She waited silently, her body still rigid with tension and ready to move at a moment's notice.
"Sheesh, would it kill you to trust me a little? Well, whatever. I don't care. I'm here on my boss' orders today. He wanted me to ask Huey's daughter a few questions and come back with answers."
Chane narrowed her eyes, going over the words in her head.
He just called me "Huey's daughter."
And he talked about his "boss."
Logically speaking, it wasn't very probable, then, that Spike's boss was Huey himself.
That meant that he wasn't moving on her father's orders.
And that means I can do what I want.
Chane took a deep breath, deciding to first cut the tendons on his wrists and ankles. She tensed, waiting for the right moment to put her grisly plan into action.
If Spike knew what she was thinking, it didn't show on his face as he continued rambling on blithely, a huge grin creasing his face.
"Come to think of it, how the hell am I supposed to get answers from you? You can't talk, and I can't see. How're we supposed to communicate, eh?"
Chane paid no more attention to his words; the time for conversation was over. She saw him take a breath to continue talking, his lips pursing to voice his next sentence...
"I guess we could go with braille or something, but I think the easiest way to do it'd be..."
Chane kicked forward off the ground, rocketing toward Spike like a cannonball. With her first step she drew her right knife, with the next she drew her left, and with the third she drew them back with blinding speed, prepared to cut Spike's tendons. Having friends had not made her soft.
"...To call an interpreter, right?! Haw haw haw haw!"
And then she was flying.
To say she hadn't seen it coming would have been an understatement.
She hadn't even felt anything touch her; one moment she was on the ground and the next she was spinning through the air. Hastily she twisted in midair and managed to right herself, landing on her feet. She'd lost her balance, and the easy rhythm of her breathing had been broken, but her desperate contortion had kept her from landing flat on her back.
She whirled around to face Spike and found him standing exactly where he had been a moment before. He hadn't moved a step.
The only thing that was different was the ebon shadow standing beside him.
All Chane could tell was that it was a man with blond hair. Everything else about him was hidden behind a veil of pitch black: black shoes, a black coat, a black suit and pants that wouldn't have looked altogether out of place at a funeral. Even his face was mostly obscured by the bill of the hunting cap he wore, pressed down deep to hide his features.
Unlike Spike, the man in black was someone Chane didn't recognize at all, but from the looks of it he was probably the one who'd sent her flying through the air.
She grew even warier, but Spike didn't seem to notice. Instead he just gave a low whistle of appreciation.
"Whew. Did you just throw that little rascal right over my head? I gotta say, Felix my friend, you're really something."
She knew that name.
In fact, she heard it every day.
Felix Walken was the other name of her beloved, Claire Stanfield, the one he used when he was talking to people other than herself.
But the man standing before her was not Claire. The only thing the two had in common was the dangerous air that surrounded them like a tangible aura, quiet and menacing.
The man in black sighed and shook his head.
"...How many times must I tell you?"
"Huh? Oh, that thing about you selling that name to someone else? Well what the hell'm I supposed to call you then? Think of other people, too, would you? I mean, you probably sold that name 'cause you wanted to put your past behind you, but look how well that turned out. Eh? Am I right or am I right?" Spike chuckled.
The man ignored him and turned soundlessly toward Chane, his voice brusque and businesslike.
"We've only got one thing we want to know, Ms. Laforet. As soon as you answer, we'll let you go-"
"And we'll turn a blind eye to your friends, too! Hahahaha!"
"Y'know, I couldn't believe my ears myself! Who would've thought you'd've thrown in with that tattooed brat who threw a wrench into our plans a few years back? Though I mean, it's not like I've got a grudge against the runt myself. Thanks to him I found a boss who pays a hell of a lot better than Huey did!"
The man in black cut Spike off and continued as though nothing had happened.
"This is our question, Ms. Laforet."
"What is your father going to attempt here in New York?"
Chapter 2 Back End