Victor's interaction with his subordinates is probably one of my favorite parts of his character.
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 was just before opening time in the restaurant. A woman sat alone inside the serving area, looking oddly lost and sad despite the sweet smell of honey filling the air.
The waitresses and the store's owner bustled around her, getting ready for the breakfast rush, and a few members of the Martillo Family, who also called the restaurant home, sat at tables nearby, talking quietly to each other. But the woman seemed somehow isolated from them, as though the morose air about her had cut her off from the rest of the world and its untroubled thoughts.
A few traces of girlhood still lingered in her soft features, but her clothing was anything but girlish. She wore a business suit and dress pants, clothes that were not, at the time, considered all that appropriate for women.
She was named Ennis, and she had no family name. She was a homunculus, created by an alchemist named Szilard Quates.
After years upon years of unthinking servitude, she had turned on her master, and as punishment for her betrayal, Szilard had cut the bonds between him and her that provided her with life. She'd fully expected to die that day, but a young immortal had devoured the ancient alchemist, and in doing so had found himself holding Ennis' life in his hands.
Though at the time they were enemies, the young man had not only saved her life, but graciously provided her with a place to live.
He was the first family she had ever had.
At first, she hadn't quite known how to treat him, but the passage of time had let her adjust, and she'd adapted soon enough to the new experience of having family.
But that young man was no longer with her.
About a week ago, he'd been escorted away by men who looked like they worked with the government.
When she'd heard the news of Firo's arrest, Ennis had been surprised to find herself greatly shaken.
She knew very well that Firo was a capo of the Martillo Family, a criminal organization, and also that by affiliating himself with the Family, Firo had implicitly accepted his status as a man who stood on the wrong side of the law.
But to Ennis, Firo was simply an oddly generous and good-natured young man, always eager to please, and though he'd rarely had cause to show her the side of him that made him a camorrista, that didn't mean that he had ever tried to hide anything from her, either.
And more than that, he was family. Ennis had searched for a reason to exist, but he had given her a place where she belonged.
Only now that he was gone did she quietly realize just how much he'd meant to her.
But she couldn't just sit there moping forever.
Firo hadn't been the only one taken away.
Isaac Dian had also been arrested by a plainclothes police officer, in the very restaurant in which Ennis currently sat, and had not returned. They hadn't heard from him at all after that, so it was a safe bet to say that he'd probably been quietly locked up in a jail somewhere.
When they told his partner the news, everyone had expected her to start bawling like a child or throw a fit.
But instead, Miria had merely fallen silent and left the Alveare. She hadn't come back since.
Ennis hadn't been there in person to see it herself, but when she imagined Miria's face at that moment, she couldn't help but feel like a vise had clamped down on her heart. She owed her continued existence to Firo, but Isaac and Miria had also been responsible for much of her new life, and she thought of them as precious friends.
But she hadn't been able to do a thing. Not for Firo, not for Isaac, and not for Miria.
Ennis was frustrated beyond words at her own powerlessness, but she'd realized that it would be no use to continue wallowing in her depression. Instead, she'd decided to try and think of something--anything--that she could do to make things better.
That had led her to today, where she faced yet another long day of asking herself questions that had no answer.
"Are you alright, Ennis?"
Today, though, she was broken out of her thoughts by the voice of a young boy. It was Czes, the boy she lived with and whom she treated like a younger brother. He looked worried, most probably because he'd seen the way she'd been brooding for the past few days.
"Oh. Czes. I'm fine. I'm just a little under the weather."
"If you're worried about Firo, you shouldn't be."
"Was it that obvious? I'm sorry. I really shouldn't let it get to me so much, but..."
"No, that's fine. It's only natural. But I'm telling you, you don't need to be worried. I mean, you've got all the time in the world, don't you? Firo might have been arrested, but even if he's carted off to prison, you don't need to worry about him dying at all," the boy said frankly, and Ennis replied with a soft smile.
"Yes... Yes, you're right. You would know, wouldn't you, Czes? It took you more than a hundred years, but you finally had your reunion with Mr. Maiza..."
"Uhh... right..." Czes murmured slowly, looking away, and the smile fled from Ennis' face as she wondered if she'd made some sort of mistake.
Before she could ask, though, a commotion from the front door drew their attention.
"I'm sorry, sir, but we're not open yet."
"Yeah, yeah, whatever. Just let me in. I've got business with one of the Martillos."
Ennis looked over and saw Sena, the Alveare's owner, talking to a dangerous looking man with a low, rough voice.
"Oh, alright. Did you make an appointment?"
"What are you, their secretary? Look, cut the bullshit and just tell me if Maiza's here. You could say me and him go way back..."
At the mention of Maiza's name, the camorristas seated at the tables also turned to look at the man at the entrance.
Maiza Avaro was the Martillo Family's bookkeeper, one of the Family's highest ranking officers. At first glance he was merely a kind looking, unassuming sort of man, but in reality he hid a sharp mind behind his friendly smile, and it was no exaggeration to say that the reason the Martillos were still around despite their tiny size was mostly due to him.
To Czes and Ennis, though, there was something else to add to that...
"Bah. Move it, I'm going in anyway."
"Ack! Sir, don't!"
Ennis and Czes shared a quizzical look and then turned to look at the man as he shoved past Sena and stepped into the restaurant.
Now that they could get a good look at him, they could see that he wore a thin coat, and square-rimmed glasses were perched on his nose. His sharp eyes darted back and forth over the room; perhaps a sign of caution, perhaps a sign of hostility. Either way, the moment he stepped inside, the warm and friendly air in the restaurant abruptly plunged below zero.
The memory of Isaac's arrest was still clear in everyone's minds, prompting the men of the camorra to wonder if the unknown intruder was another representative of the law. And indeed, the stranger couldn't have seemed more like a lawman if he'd come in with his badge pinned to his breast for all to see.
But though the Martillos tensed and prepared for the worst, there was one person in the restaurant whose anxiety surpassed theirs by far.
Czes had gone white as a sheet the moment he caught sight of the man's face.
Ennis could tell that something was wrong just from the boy's expression, and she looked to see what had dismayed him so much...
She saw his face and recognized him.
She'd never met him before, but the man's face was in her memories.
She had no way of knowing it, of course, but her reaction was much the same as Firo's had been, the first time he'd met the man.
He's... Ah, that means he's...
She remembered something she shouldn't have remembered. Ennis shuddered, shaken by a sudden wave of regret and guilt, by pain she knew she couldn't--and shouldn't--forget.
And the only person who could have lessened the pain she felt... wasn't there anymore.
The tempest of emotions raging inside Ennis slowly began to show on her face, but the stranger didn't seem to notice at all, instead opting to glance around the interior of the restaurant. He spotted the boy sitting next to Ennis, the one staring back at him like he'd seen a ghost, and the hard lines of his face softened just a tiny bit.
"Hey, Czes," he said quietly. "How long has it been? About 233 years now, I think?"
The man spread his arms wide, remembering a time centuries past, but Czes didn't let down his guard in the slightest as he uttered the man's name.
"Ah, no, you don't have to. Just pretend I'm not here, okay? Sorry for barging in like this before you guys opened up."
Victor waved away one of the Asian waitresses as she approached with a glass of water, striding boldly over to Czes's table and seating himself without asking.
"It's been a while, Czes. Good to see you're doing alright."
"Umm... Yeah, you too, Victor..."
In contrast to Victor's bright and jovial demeanor, Czes was clearly terrified. Even the way he edged away in his seat, ready to bolt at a moment's notice, made it obvious that he was trying to get as far away from Victor as possible.
Or rather, as far away from Victor's right hand as possible.
Czeslaw Meyer was also an immortal, the thought of being devoured frightened him more than anything. Granted, most of the immortals did fear the only thing that could bring them true death, but in Czes' case it was nearly on the level of a phobia.
To make things worse, he'd once been betrayed by the person he trusted most, and the experience had left him deeply jaded. Put those two together, and it was easy to see why he was so unsettled by Victor's sudden, utterly unannounced visit, especially considering that centuries had passed since they'd last seen each other.
"Why are you..."
"Oh, nothing much. Had something to talk to Maiza about."
"You weren't very surprised to see me... That means... You knew I was here?"
"Huh? Yeah, of course I did."
Victor had tracked him down.
Czes suppressed a shudder, ignoring the faint chill that washed over him and focusing all his attention on the other immortal.
"Did you ask an information broker about me? Or did Maiza tell you?"
"Information broker? You mean the Daily Days newspaper? Pfft. Getting info from them is like pulling teeth; their lips are sealed when it comes to selling to the government. Oh, and I didn't ask Maiza, either. It's been, what, six or seven years since I last saw him?"
"I've had my people watching you all this time," Victor said casually, shrugging.
Czes' brow furrowed in concern. "Your people?"
"Hahaha. What's with all the questions, Czes? We haven't seen each other in over two centuries and this is the welcome I get? Would it kill you to smile a little?"
"...Was that a question you don't want to answer?"
"Jesus Christ. You're really going in on me, aren't you? Normally I don't like to answer questions with questions, but I think I've earned one, wouldn't you say? There's something I've got to ask you, too," Victor said, the smile abruptly slipping off his face. Czes tensed, the feeling of unease that had been hanging over him since Victor walked in seizing hold of him.
"Wha, what is it?"
"Czes... What happened to Fermet?"
Czes gasped aloud, the blood draining from his face the moment the name passed Victor's lips. Up till then he'd been more or less holding his ground despite his fear, but Fermet's name defeated him completely, and he seemed to shrink in on himself so much that even Ennis couldn't help but notice, lowering his gaze to stare down at the table.
Victor, of course, noticed as well, and he moved in relentlessly.
"You remember Fermet, don't you? That guy who left with you for the west when we all parted ways. You know what's funny, though? My men tell me that he's not here. Only you. I wonder what that means..."
"...See? Everyone's got things they don't want to be asked. Now, I'm gonna leave it be, and I'll ask you to do the same," Victor said, suddenly smiling again.
But the color did not return to Czes' face.
Ennis would have butted in on Czes' behalf, especially since he seemed so obviously distressed, but every time she raised her eyes to Victor's face, she couldn't help but back down again.
His face was crystal clear in the memories of the alchemist she'd devoured. To him, Victor had not just been a traveling companion, but also a fast friend.
Faced with the knowledge that the man before her had been friends with the man she'd killed, Ennis found it hard to think straight.
Perhaps he'd come to kill her, to get revenge for his friend's death.
Or perhaps he'd come to get his friend's memories back.
Ennis could only wait for Victor to speak, as rigid and tense with suspense as Czes was.
Victor glanced sidelong at her and seemed to notice her unease, and opened his mouth to say something.
But the voice that spoke next was not his.
"Victor?" It was a young man who looked to be in his mid-twenties, his voice a complicated mix of surprise, joy, and even a tiny hint of hostility. "What brings you all the way here?"
Like Victor, he too wore glasses, but aside from that they were utterly different. The tall man who'd called to Victor had a soft, warm expression on his face, his eyes narrowed not in suspicion but in good-natured cheer. His rounded rectangular glasses gave him the appearance of an affable scholar.
Victor, on the other hand, gave off the air of a cold and calculating carnivore, but his features, too, softened just a bit as he raised his right hand in greeting.
"Hey, Maiza! How's life been treating you? Man, reunions are great, aren't they? Sometimes, the feeling you get when you meet a friend and find they've changed completely in the time you were apart is even better than the one you get when you first meet. You get to wondering, was it them who changed so much, or was it me? I was trying to teach Czes here about that, but he's really giving me the cold shoulder. Help me out a little, would you?"
"Has the end of the Prohibition made you so happy that you've gone and replaced all the blood in your veins with liquor in celebration, Victor? You're drunk on yourself, and you don't seem to realize how much you're aggravating everyone else."
"Ugh... Looks like you're not all that happy to see me, either. Maybe I shouldn't have come."
"...You do know where you are, and what that means in the context of who you are, right?" Maiza asked, sighing and shaking his head. "What business does an assistant director of the Department of Justice have with our tiny Family?"
A multitude of tiny clattering noises filled the restaurant as chairs were turned in Victor's direction.
Most of the people currently in the restaurant were affiliated with the Martillo Family, and it went without saying that they were not on friendly terms with the Division of Investigation. Firo and Isaac's arrests had left them sore, and the glares leveled against the detective were even more hostile than normal.
"Haha. Look at all these idiots. Don't they know that reacting like that to a mention of the Department is like holding up a sign saying you're a criminal? Eh, Maiza?"
Victor seemed unperturbed by the animosity directed his way, and Maiza only sighed again before saying, "Have you just come to pick a fight, or was there an actual emergency that warranted this house call?"
"Well, sort of. Whether it's an emergency or not depends on what Huey does."
"Huey?" Maiza asked, taken aback by the unexpected mention of his old companion--very old indeed, for Huey Laforet had become an immortal aboard the Advena Avis just like Victor, Czes, and Maiza himself. He looked doubtfully at Victor.
"Didn't you arrest Huey a few years back?"
"I arrested him, but the problem is that he's still got an army of cronies working for him on the outside, and they're starting to get restless. The way I see it, this could easily end up becoming another Flying Pussyfoot."
Maiza had heard the rumors, of course, that terrorists had hijacked a train with that name three years ago. But he'd only heard them because someone he knew had actually been on the train at the time; the story had never made it to public.
Perhaps someone in the government had exerted their influence, for the news never reached the papers, and though there had been many fatalities, the truth of what had happened that bloody night never saw the light of day.
To people like Maiza, who lived on the wrong side of the law, the meticulous perfection of the media blackout was chilling. They knew better than anyone just how hard it was to cover up something out of the ordinary.
Simple crimes were hard enough to conceal, but the hijacking of a transcontinental train? It was not only almost impossible, but unthinkable. The very fact that someone had actually thought to bury an incident of that magnitude was staggering.
"Don't tell me that you were the one who kept that from reaching the papers."
"What? Us? You're overestimating us by a mile, Maiza. Even we don't have enough muscle to pull off something like that. I'm guessing there's someone else up there who doesn't want news involving immortals to reach the public."
Victor frowned, perhaps a little put out for having to voice the weakness of his department's influence. "Someone high up, I guess... Dammit, why're they working against us when we're trying to do the same thing? Fucking retards..."
"So, what's happened to Huey?"
"Huh? Oh, damn, sorry about that. Got carried away for a bit. See, the problem is that we're pretty damn certain that Huey's calling the shots from inside Alcatraz, but... We have no fucking clue how." Victor sighed. His voice grew louder as he complained, which meant that the Martillo Family members around him got an earful of what he said next.
"That's why we sent your boy in after him."
The noise of moving chairs was like a small earthquake this time, as the men in the restaurant rose to their feet.
Maiza fixed Victor with a sharp glare, his voice turning cold. "What did you do with Firo? Choose your words well, Victor, because depending on your reply, you may become our enemy."
Even Victor couldn't help but look away from that frigid gaze, and he raised his hands meekly in surrender. "Whoa, whoa. Calm down, Maiza. I may hate gangs with a passion, but I'd rather not have a war on my hands. That's why I dropped in today. Christ, I don't want to fight you. I just wanted to clear things up, okay?"
Victor got to his feet, rambling on in a wounded voice as though he was the one who had the right to be offended.
"Look. He didn't spill anything about your Family, and of course he didn't betray you. He's not working for us because he wants to, believe me."
He looked over to Ennis, a complex mix of emotions flashing across his face, and when he spoke it seemed somehow like he was hiding his feelings away.
"The kid took the fall for this young lady here. Ennis, was it? We made an agreement that he'd do a job for us, and in exchange we'd erase your crimes."
Ennis started at the sound of her name, looking Victor squarely in the eyes for the first time.
Victor held her gaze as he began to explain, keeping his face carefully expressionless--not derisive, or angry, merely blank.
Calmly, steadily, he talked.
He talked, not slowing in the slightest even as Ennis began to pale.
It was as though he was pouring the resentment he felt toward her into the words.
"Don't look at me like that, Maiza. From the looks of it, I'm guessing both Ms. Ennis here and the fucking gangster trash listening in have something they'd like to say, but I'm a busy man and I can tell I'm overstaying my welcome here. I think I'm done for today."
His explanation finished, Victor raised his hand in farewell and began walking toward the exit.
"So what is it that Huey's thinking?" Maiza said from behind him urgently. "I know everything is just an experiment to him, but what is he after? Do you think that isolating him from Elmer might have made him even more volatile?"
"That's what I want to know."
Victor cut the cryptic exchange short and frowned, brushing imaginary specks of dust off of his coat.
"Anyway, according to my sources, Huey's apparently going to start a fireworks show right here in New York, sometime in the next few days. Listen, Maiza. Even if that freak of a mad scientist comes to you, don't take part in his festival. There's nothing good in it. Not for you, and not for your Family. Got that?"
"...Is that warning the real reason you came here today?"
"Yeah, it is. I still count you as a friend, Maiza. All I ask of you is to keep from becoming my enemy. Actually, while we're on the topic, why don't you quit this gang business?" The federal agent flashed a rare open smile, his voice mellowing with nostalgia as he murmured, "Then we can go have a drink together, like we used to."
Then he began to shout over his shoulder to the gangsters gathered in the restaurant, as though to erase the sentimental words of a moment before with intimidation.
"Got that, Maiza? I still think of you as a friend, but that doesn't change the fact that I hate all gangsters, whether they call themselves mafia or camorra or fucking 'ndrangheta! I wish they'd all die! Writhing in pain! Slowly, wishing for death! Ruing the day they were ever fucking born! Keep this in mind, Maiza. You keep rolling around in the mud like this, nobody'll be able to tell you apart from these fucking swine!"
His piece said, Victor immediately began to walk briskly toward the exit, not even pausing to catch his breath.
"Oh, excuse me," an old man said as he brushed past Victor on his way in.
Victor ignored him, continuing toward the outside.
That was when he felt something strange near his feet.
Maybe he'd caught his foot on a chair leg on his way out. He looked down at his feet to see what was wrong, and realized that something was definitely out of the ordinary.
He wasn't standing on anything.
What was more, he couldn't see the floor beneath him.
He barely had time for one confused thought before a dull thud shook his body and drove the breath from his lungs. He opened his eyes and found himself staring directly at the floor; the only conclusion his addled mind could come up with was that he'd somehow been thrown bodily through the air.
What the hell? Did I just fall over or something?
He hadn't felt anything at his feet, nothing to suggest that he'd tripped.
A wrinkled hand appeared in his field of vision as he struggled to come to terms with what had just happened, extended palm up as though to help him to his feet. It was the old man he'd bumped into on his way out.
"Is something the matter, young man?"
Victor looked up and recognized the Asian man's face.
"...Was that you, old man?"
There was nothing on Yaguruma's file that indicated he was skilled in the martial arts, but that was the only explanation that Victor could think of to explain what had just happened. He snarled irritably, raising one hand to bat away Yaguruma's own as he got to his feet.
But Yaguruma's hand flashed out and grasped hold of Victor's wrist, the heavy calluses on the old man's wrinkled skin making Victor feel like he'd been caught in the rubber grips of a mechanical vise. Yaguruma only gave a light tug, but Victor's momentum worked against him and he practically flew up into the air once again.
A small shock hit his waist, and before he knew it he was seated in a chair at the counter somehow, his head colliding roughly against the varnished wood. He shook his head groggily, disoriented at the second rapid change of position in the space of seconds, and heard the sound of shattering glass from somewhere nearby.
"You should be careful."
He looked toward the noise and saw a man with sharp eyes sitting next to him, slowly gathering together the pieces of a shattered bottle.
"Doesn't matter whether you're an assistant director, or J. Edgar Hoover, or the President himself. Imagine if you'd happened to hit your head on this shattered glass when you fell over."
Victor met the man's sharp gaze and finally got a handle on the situation.
It seemed the Martillos had taken offense at his parting comments, and decided to show him they weren't to be taken lightly. He frowned, irritated at having been manhandled so casually.
"...Is that supposed to be a threat?" he snapped, trying to hide his anger behind a façade of calm. "It's not going to work on me, so-"
Victor stopped mid-sentence as the man with the sharp eyes leaned in, his voice lowered in a whisper so that only Victor could hear.
"While your body worked the shards of glass out of your face, someone might just happen to put their right hand on your head."
"Just like Szilard Quates did, back aboard the Advena Avis in 1711."
Who the hell...?
Victor looked closely at the man again, concentrating hard this time, but try as he might, he couldn't remember anyone who'd looked like him among his alchemist companions. And he couldn't imagine that Maiza would have shared the knowledge of what had happened aboard the boat so freely.
Who the hell is this guy?!
As Victor floundered, struggling to make sense of the situation, the man smiled and placed his hand over the pile of glass shards.
Then he raised his hand, and the bottle appeared underneath, unbroken, as though it was sprouting straight out the surface of his palm.
"What the fuck..."
"Well? Scarier than you'd think, isn't it, having a mystery appear where you thought you knew everything."
Victor slowly looked over to Maiza, but the mafioso just glared back, offering no explanation for the impossibility that had just taken place, or for the man who had done it.
"A magician? No, never mind. It'll all come clear when I run a background search on you."
The federal agent grit his teeth and rose from the counter, still angered and bewildered at having so suddenly lost his advantage.
"We'll see who gets the last laugh... Wait and see. Your petty threats won't work on us."
The Martillos' hostile glares followed him as he walked, but he did not slow his pace.
It was as though he knew that looks alone would not be enough to kill him, and he held his head high, taking their animosity without fear.
"Mr. Yaguruma. Ronnie. You went a little overboard," Maiza sighed, taking a seat at the counter next to his fellow capos.
"Hah, did I? I thought I was going easy on him. If I'd been serious I would've dislocated one of his arms for good measure," Yaguruma said, chuckling.
Ronnie Schiatto, on the other hand, stared down at the bottle he'd created, his expression inscrutable.
"Ronnie? Is something the matter?"
"It's nothing... It's just, I think he doesn't remember me at all."
"Is that what worried you."
Maiza shook his head in exasperation, and Ronnie looked to him with a frown.
"Well, no matter... Maiza. I've made a decision."
The man who'd once been called a demon set his jaw, looking oddly purposeful.
"The next time I'm summoned, I'll have to make a stronger impression."
Once he was outside, Victor hurried over to the car that was waiting for him and promptly took off.
"Hmm. Did it go well, sir?" Bill Sullivan said over his shoulder as he guided the car through the streets.
"Ugh... Like hell it did! Tell you the truth, they scared the shit out of me! Maiza's never glared at me like that before... I thought he was gonna really try and kill me for a moment there! And the rest of them... Fuck, I don't know. There's just too much I don't know right now. Fucking Maiza. He's really gone and become a goddamn gangster!"
"Err. Sir. I don't think it's my place to ask, but, uhh. I am a bit curious about something."
"Huh? About what?" Victor snapped, already fed up with his subordinate's roundabout manner of speech.
"Well, if I recall, you asked me to drive you here so that you could, and I quote, 'Warn an old friend not to fall for Huey's bullshit'. So, sir, how exactly did you go about that warning to warrant such hostility that your knees were knocking as you got in the car?"
"Err. Well, uhh, what do you think happened, Detective Sullivan?" Victor asked, looking to dodge the question, but he couldn't have foreseen the reply he got.
"Hum. I think you probably went and did something stupid, sir."
Victor opened his mouth, then closed it, sitting back and crossing his arms with a huge frown on his face. He had nothing to say to that, and leveraging his authority to shut Sullivan up would be no different from admitting defeat.
He idly thought back to the conversation he'd had with Maiza, then suddenly cursed and snapped his fingers.
'Shit. I forgot to tell him one thing."
"Dare I even ask, sir?"
"I was gonna tell him about that other weird immortal. Isaac, I think his name was."
"His involvement in this mess just came completely out of the blue."
Chapter 1 Back End
Chapter 2 Front