Follow The Buzzards

Summary:
May 10, 2014: Sara and Paul go out on a case. Run by Arsenal.

Manhattan


Characters

NPCs


Mood Music:


PART I

Manhattan, New York City

In the darkness of their modest apartment, Elise Morgan tossed and turned in her bed on a cloudless Friday evening.

She couldn't sleep this night, and she didn't know why. There was the quiet hum of the city, of a subway rumbling as the train by.

No wait, she did know why, now… a door had opened quietly. Her daughter, headed to the kitchen.

After a quiet moment, she heard a noise. A quiet clattering.

Sighing, she rolled out of bed, pulling on her bathrobe to check on her daughter.

Onward she went, her footsteps quietly padding on the hard wooden floor until…

-chop-

What was that?

-chop-

What was her daughter doing with a knife? She was only eight. She knew better than to touch sharp instruments.

-chop-

Elise frowned.

-chop-

She was in for a scolding. Especially at the ungodly hour of midnight.

-chop-

She saw the kitchen light was indeed on, and she heard the sound of her daughter humming.

-chop-

"Denise?"

-chop-

"Denise, what are you doing-?"

-chop-

-CHOP-

-C H O P-

  • * *

"All right, boys and girls, we've got -another- case of single mother and missing children!" Captain Peyroux announced, as she dropped a big file onto Sara Pezzini's desk. Clapping her hands together, the good Captain Bernadette Peyroux gave Sara a particular look. "We needed you there yesterday, but I'll settle for you being there in an hour. Get going."

"Tell that to Trigger," Sara replies to the captain, pointing a thumb at her new partner. "Had to get all the paperwork in order. I think we're in the clear now, though, right?" she asks, looking over to Paul as she reaches for the file. It's certainly not the only file on her desk, all of which appear to be in some state of disarray or another.

As the Captain starts speaking, Paul glances up from his computer screen and sits back to listen. Though as the file gets dropped on Sara's desk, he saves the file and begins shutting things down before it's even official. "Roy Rogers has never ridden me." he notes and stands up, reaching for his jacket hanging from the back of his chair. "All clear." he confirms. "We'll be there in fifty five even."

Sara Pezzini opens her mouth to make some comment on Paul's words, then closes it at a sharp look from the Captain. It's the sort that says make one snide comment and you're going to get another course of sensitivity training, so she clears her throat instead, flipping through the file for a quick scan. "We'll be right on it, Captain," she agrees with a nod, waiting until the other woman is gone before she stands. "Is it too much to hope that this would just be moms realizing there might be better places to raise their kids?"

Paul doesn't quite smirk at the almost response. He almost got her. "You're driving? And if they had packed up and canceled their lease, they wouldn't be missing." he points out. "Kidnapping and murder by a pedophile seems likelier." With no real evidence left behind or it wouldn't be given to them.

"Thank you, Trigger, for the optimistic view," Sara smirks with a shake of her head, snagging the keys as she shrugs into her jacket. "You know, you're not in Gotham anymore. Sometimes things don't turn out horribly and insanely here in New York. Not always, but it never hurts to hope a little bit." She heads for the lot, checking out an unmarked car to head to the address in the file.

"If this were Gotham, I'd have said a cannibalistic pedophile." Paul automatically checks to make sure his gun and badge are secure and in place as he follows Sara out to the cars. "But I'll be happy to be pleasantly surprised to find them alive instead." Instead of a mound of bodies. "If you see a pretzel wagon on the way, stop quick."

The apartment was cordoned off, but it would be easy enough to slip in. One officer, an Officer Mallett, nods his welcome towards Sara. "The scene's in the kitchen. We have witnesses saying that they heard screams at midnight, and then … nothing. The fire escape window's open, too, and forensics are going over it and the kitchen."

"Oh, well, I stand corrected." Sara doesn't actually stop at a pretzel stand, making good time to the scene of the crime. Once they're there, she listens to the report, nodding along as she follows into the kitchen. "I'm guessing no one came out to investigate when they heard screaming?"

"I'll meet you inside." Paul says and instead of following the officer in, he walks around to see where the fire escape is and check things out from down below.

"Nope, ma'am!" Officer Mallett chirps, as he leads the way to the kitchen.

The scene was bloody. The mother's body's outline had been marked, as it had been taken to the morgue, the details and photos marked out in the files. Such details would have boiled down to: 'hacked at with a cleaver'. A single mother, with child… although, as the report noted, the daughter had gone missing. "The neighbors came and yelled. Apparently it's not uncommon for Ms. Morgan to be arguing with her boyfriend at this time of the night."

As for Paul, he'd notice that the apartment is facing an alley, the fire escape ladder has been pulled down, and that a few homeless bums were loitering about.

Sara nods to Paul, following the officer into the kitchen and pausing as she takes a look from just outside. "Anyone have any info on the boyfriend?" she asks quietly, taking in the details of the scene. "That's…this sort of mess would take some time to make. The screaming might stop soon enough, but unless the woman was a professional butcher, it must have taken some time to do all of this."

Paul stares up at the fire escape, estimating what it would take for someone to reach the ladder to pull down. And then he looks around to see what could be used to climb on. "Did any of you sleep here last night?" he asks the people in the alley. "A little girl was abducted and the mother killed. Anything you saw or heard could be important."

"The boyfriend's been asked in for questioning," Officer Mallett notes. "Here's his address, if you want to talk to him. It did, but since the noises stopped, they went back to sleep."

The homeless bums barely register Paul's presence, other than to wave dismissively. Although there -was- a moment of hesitation. Paul's probably seen similar reactions in the past - the sort of 'so we saw something, what're you gonna do for us?" wave.

Sara takes the address, tucking it into her pocket. "Always the first place to look for these things," she muses. "Especially if there's been a history of fighting between the two of them. Do we know if the kid was his?" she asks. "Not that I expect I'd be lucky enough for this to be as normal as a custody dispute gone bad."

Gotham, Manhattan, it's all the same. Mostly. He never, ever wants to be a cop in Gotham. Paul pulls out his wallet and unfolds it to pull out a twenty. "Let's try that again. I'm offering a reward for useful information. Anyone see or hear anything?"

"Don't know for sure. The nearby neighbors didn't think it was any of their business, but they did suggest the apartment gossip downstairs might know something," Officer Mallett replied. "The poor girl was caught in a lot of the disputes."

Now the bums stir, but only one raises his hand. "Last night… yeah. Wha'choo wanna know?"

Sara grimaces at the news, then braces herself to step inside the kitchen. Step by step, careful of the evidence left behind, she scans the area for spatter patterns, looking for whatever could have been used for the deed. Trying not to think too hard about the details of how it got that way.

Paul waits to see if anyone steps up then motions to the one who does to come closer. "Just tell me everything you saw or heard. Take your time and be as detailed as possible. I'll ask question when you're done if I have any."

The bloody scene is fairly obvious. The splatter pattern is fairly simple: it appears from the way things had been that the first impact would have been around the counter area. From the way the blood impacted, the victim had been facing the counter (and someone), as the radius of splatter had been around the floor and the surrounding area away from the counter. Vegetables had apparently been chopped on the counter, violently hacked bits of carrots and celery, not neatly chopped. The stove was relatively clean, with no signs of pots and pans or other cooking instruments. A cleaver was nearby, splattered with blood, although with the way the blood landed, it was clear that part of the splatter had landed on the person's hand, as a part of the handle was clean.

Meanwhile, for Paul, the bum barely rears his head. "You come on down. Too old to be looking up at coppers, especially those who're that higher than thou."

Sara takes a deep breath through her mouth, trying not to smell too much of the scene. There's always a stench at these sorts of things. But while she moves around, searching with her mundane senses, she also lets the Witchblade take a look, paying attention for anything that gives a case of the woogies.

"Fair enough." Paul agrees. As he walks over, he puts his wallet away though not the twenty. Once by the homeless guy willing to talk, he squats down to listen. "So what can you tell me, sir?"

What the witchblade picks up… well, there wasn't any magic involved, or at least not immediately. There was a faint -whisper- of it, as if someone had been manipulated by magic, but beyond that, nothing. The air of spilled blood hung in the air.

Meanwhile, Paul's homeless person was being rather forthcoming, after snatching at the 20. "Give me it first, then…"

Whatever the back and forth, he starts talking. "Seen someone crawl out of the apartment, by herself I did."

The idea that there was no strange magic going on in here, with this, is more disturbing than the scene itself. Once she's had her fill of blood, Sara moves to the hallway, to start looking into the bedrooms, getting a feel for the people who lived here.

A the man starts talking, Paul reaches into his jacket to get a pen and paper to start taking notes. He just nods encouragingly, saving questions till after.

Officer Mallett accompanies Sara as she starts poking around the bedrooms. The bedroom belonging to Elise Morgan is rather scruffy, threadbare sheets and rumpled sheets bespeaking of someone who's not able to keep up with the constant demand on her time, judging by the piles of clothes scattered about, although at least she kept the dirty clothes piled up in a hamper. A photograph is on the nightstand, one of her daughter and herself, and in another, there's a man standing next to her in a cheek-to-cheek photo.

The homeless person outside wraps himself around, shivering despite the warm weather. "I tells you, herself was chanting along like, you know that old show. Teletubbies? She was covered in blood, the little girl…"

Sara crouches near the photos, taking a good look at them. "So that'll be the girl," she muses. "Whether or not that's the boyfriend…" She trails off, shaking her head. "We'll need to check the reports for this unit and these people. See if there's a pattern, any old threats."

"You're saying a little girl, covered in blood, came down the fire escape?" Paul asks, forgetting for the moment his intention to wait for the full story. "Chanting. Could you make out what the words were? What was she doing and where did she go?"

"Aye, ma'am," Officer Mallett responds, as he jots his own notes down. "I'll get right on it."

The homeless man looks up toothlessly. "Yes, a little girl. Chanting things that would make your blood run cold. Something about… about following the… the buzzards. Yes, that's it, she was chanting it over and over. 'Follow the buzzards.'"

Paul writes that down. 'Follow the buzzards.' "And then? Did she come down the ladder?" Where else? Unless she flew away. "Where did she go once she got to the ground?"

Sara straightens after getting a good look at the pictures, starting down the hall toward the little girl's room. "It's always worse when it's kids, you know?" she says to Mallett. "Adults are making a choice. The kids usually don't."

"I agree. By the way, where's the detective you came in with?" Officer Mallett asks, looking around the apartment.

Outside, Paul's interrogation of the homeless indigent continues. "She came down, but you know, she looked… out of it." Scrunching up his face, the bum considers the last question, before pointing. "Went… that way. Dangerous that way, so I don't know what might have happened."

"Checking the exits," Sara answers Mallett, stepping into the little girl's room to continue her search. "I'm not too worried, though. He's from Gotham and he's ex-military, I'm guessing he can take care of himself pretty well." She checks the windows, checks the drawers and the closet for anything obviously missing.

"Thank you. That helps a lot." As Paul heads back over to the fire escape, he pulls out his cell phone and dials Sara. "Pezzini, get down here. And bring one of the lab boys."

Sara pulls out her phone when Paul calls, turning toward the door. "Be right down," she agrees. "Thanks, officer," she adds with a flash of a smile for Mallett before requisitioning one of the techs and making her way down to the fire escape. "Sounds like you found something useful."

"Cordon off the area from the fire escape to the street. And check the entire fire escape for blood going up to the apartment." Paul tells the tech before turning to Sara. "What were you saying about this not being Gotham?" he asks dryly. "We have a witness. Seems the murderer is the little girl. She was seen climbing down the fire escape covered in blood then walked off to the slums. Chanting. We should get a dog out here before it rains and wipes away any scent trail."

"The girl?" Sara arches a brow, looking up toward the window. "Paul, that woman was literally hacked apart with a cleaver. I have a hard time imagining a little girl having the strength to pull that off. Maybe she was a witness? Shock could have driven her to escape the only way she saw from the kitchen."

"You'd be surprised what a normal human is capable of." Paul notes then repeats "She was chanting something about 'follow the buzzards'. Not running away in fear. And this explains why there's no evidence of anyone else being at the crime scenes except the mother and child. The children kill the mother then leave." He shrugs a shoulder. "Drugged somehow? Hypnotized?" He pauses then makes a face. "Magic even? Supposedly it's a real thing if you believe some of those superheroes."

It took a bit of time, but the techie was, at the least, able to identify the presence of blood with some Luminol. Testing the sample for -who- the blood belonged to was something else, but as Luminol glowed blue when in the presence of blood, it was apparent for the 30 seconds or so of its glow that the most obvious traces of blood was in the shape of small hand prints down the ladder and the escape, and around the windowsill. Further checking confirmed the trail of blood from the kitchen to the escape…

Sara is quiet for a long moment, considering the possibility. Which is more than most cops probably would, but there has to be a reason she's in special investigations. "If it was magic, whatever did it didn't happen in the apartment," she finally says, shaking her head. "But I guess it's possible it could have taken root somewhere else, like a drug. We should see if the kids' paths crossed anywhere in the last few days. Any places in common."

Paul nods his agreement. "Schools, after school activities, fast food places, birthday party. Run the mothers' credit cards and see if any charges are in common. Meanwhile… a dog. There's plenty of clothes with her scent in the apartment."

"Department's already got a call in to the mother's boyfriend here. Maybe we'll get lucky and he'll know a thing or two about the girl's schedule," Sara agrees, rubbing a hand at the back of her neck as she paces toward the trail, careful of where she steps. "I don't much care for the idea of dragging kids into these things."

"It's obviously too late for that. They've already been dragged in." Leaving the alley to the tech to take care of, Paul and Sara go up to the apartment to get the girl's pillow case. It probably has the freshest scent of her. By the time they get back downstairs, the dog is there and he gives the pillow case to the dog's handler.

The dog sniffs the pillowcase. At first it seems inclined to follow the closest path, but a sharp word, and it starts heading down the street from the alley, heading towards the slummier side of town, before coming to a stop at some point.

"Looks like the girl got in a car," the handler remarks, as the dog noses around the curb, before whining.

Sara's brows furrow at that suggestion. "I've got a feeling most people in this neighborhood wouldn't stop to pick up a bloody little girl," she says slowly, looking up and down the street. "Which tells me if there was something else going on, it included something to get her to a pick up point." She shudders, looking back to Paul. "I like kids, but if this goes all Children of the Corn, we're going to have some issues."

"Wonderful." Paul sighs. "Well, we have an approximate time. We'll have to check all the cameras in a three block radius. Maybe one picked it up." He snorts at Sara's comment. "At least we know an adult is behind this. Or at least involved. None of these kids were old enough to drive."

"Follow the buzzards."

The bum from the alley comes up from behind Sara, with a flat monotone. "Follow the buzzards." Something about his face is blank. Scruffy unkempt beard bristles as he screams. "He's got the whole world in his hands!"

"Whoa, hey," Sara spins around at the sound of a voice, holding her right hand out toward the man. At her wrist, the bracelet she always wears seems…subtly different, an odd light in the large red cabochon. "Is this your source, Paul?" she asks, without looking away from the man. "Because he seems a little…You know?"

Paul also spins at the unexpected voice, one hand reaching toward his weapon though he doesn't draw it yet. "Yes, that's him. But he was a lot more aware than he is now." The hand not resting on his gun reaches out to snap a couple times a couple inches in front of the man's face.

It's apparent that the bum doesn't even register the wave of Paul's hand, as he continues staring, before a wide smile crosses his face. A low laugh that rises in crescendo, filling the air with cackling before cutting off abruptly. And then the bum turns, throws his arms up into the air, and starts shambling into the street, into the path of an incoming car.

Sara Pezzini is officially not the weirdest thing here. Yet. Because when the bum starts to shamble toward a car, she takes exception to it. She's not fast enough to reach him on her own, but she doesn't have to do it on her own, either. She reaches out for him, and when her hand doesn't make it, silver tendrils shoot out to grab the man's shoulder and yank him back.

Paul starts forward as soon as he noticed the danger but he's not as fast as magical, metal tendrils. "I guess that explains the muffled clank when the pipe hit your arm." he says though he's a bit distracted by watching them.

The homeless indigent certainly hasn't washed in days, but the car's skidding noise as he tries to stop is loud in their ears as the Witchblade tendrils pull the man back into safety. And when they check on him, he's unconscious. How convenient.

As soon as the man is out of the street, those tendrils disappear. Or rather, retract. All that's left is the bracelet. "Explain what?" Sara says as she crouches next to the man, checking for a pulse and breathing. "You know, it could be there's some sort of drug or something in the air around here. Got the girl. Got this guy. Got you seeing things."

"Try again." Paul suggests and reaches up to run a hand over his hair. "Anything in the air wouldn't reach this far from the apartment. Not to mention, all the other cases. Isn't mind control outside of our pay grade?" Paul asks Sara and he's not even close to joking. "I don't know about you, but I missed the academy class on resisting that kind of thing."

"I'm pretty sure our pay grade was specifically created for when the NYPD wanted to tell the people with real pay grades to get their noses out of our supernatural shit," Sara snorts softly at Paul's question, settling back on her heels and watching the unconscious man. "How'd his voice sound before?" she asks, looking up to Paul. "Like that?"

"No, like a normal person talking." Paul answers, looking down at the unconscious man. "Not like a robot. "We'll want to get a tox screen just to make sure." But he sounds fairly certain it's not going to show anything except maybe alcohol and that doesn't account for things. "It doesn't have to be supernatural. Could be one of those mutants. Something psychic." Pause. "An insane mutant."

"Yeah, could be. Or some sort of possession," Sara grimaces, straightening up and brushing off the knees of her pants. "I don't particularly care for either of those options. Don't really want things in my head." It's getting crowded in there already, after all. She pauses then, eying the bum. "Whoever it was wanted this guy to off himself, though. Which means…Which means there could be something left behind."

Paul considers that then nods. "Could be. Or he just likes killing people." He calls for an ambulance then looks up and down the street. "If we get lucky, one of these stores has security cameras that pick up the street as well."

"You think this sort of thing needs him to be close?" Sara asks, crouching down again near the bum. "Could be. But just in case…" she shifts, using the bum himself and her body to block the view of her right hand before letting the Witchblade sense if there's anything left behind, any trace she might be able to follow.

"I haven't a fucking clue. But I meant to pick up the car the girl got in and hopefully get a plate number." Paul pauses a moment to consider her suggestion. "It's possible. He was close to pick up the girl. Maybe he came back to watch our response. If he had a police scanner, he'd know when we found the body."

There was a slight trace of -something-, but it wasn't quite magic, at least not as Sara might have recognized it.

Still, the current location wasn't conductive to finding witnesses who might have seen the car, and the police dog was still whining.

Sara Pezzini grimaces, straightening and handing the bum off to one of the officers on duty until a paramedic can arrive. "Nothing worth following up on here," she murmurs, looking toward the dog. "Might as well keep moving."

"Get some officers to canvas the area looking for security cameras in stores, ATMs, you know the drill." Paul tells that same officer then gestures Sara to lead the way. "We'll get the computer guys to look at the nearby red light cameras and such."

Sara nods, taking one last look around. "Let's head back to the station, then. We'll look over the reports, check for any place these people might have in common. I'll get someone on bringing the boyfriend in. Might be worth checking to see if any of the other victims had other family members or the like who'd know their schedule."

"We also need to go look again at the other crime scenes." Paul states. "Now that we think the kids walked out under their own power, then got picked up, there might be cameras at at least one of them to get something. And this time you're stopping at a hot dog stand."

"You only say that because you didn't see the crime scene," Sara shudders, heading toward the car. "People are not meant to be chopped up. Though I hear Estacado has a guy for that."

"Probably looks a lot like the after effects of explosions." Once they're in the car, Paul says "So what's with the tentacles?"

"No idea what you're talking about." Sara is not the best driver in the best of circumstances. Or rather, Sara is a born and bred New Yorker, which is to say that driving with Sara can be an exercise in blood pressure maintenance. "Just managed to grab the guy."

Paul uh-huhs. "Okay, be that way. There. Pull over there. He's got hot dogs AND pretzels. Bonus."

PART II

The separate investigations take Sara and Paul in multiple directions. First: The boyfriend. He'd talked about the troubles that he'd had with the mother, and about how she was fairly easy prey for every two bit charltan out there (apparently ignoring the irony in that statement considering -his- extracurricular activity). Or more specifically, those would-be 'figures of the community' who would promise such riches to the downtroddened who deserved so much more.

Most missing children, once a link was established, had turned out to essentially been the children of the impoverished, the downtrottened, those who had nowhere to go. Little attention had been paid to these cases, except in the case of the gruesome murders - most had drifted off because, honestly, who paid attention to the deaths of junkies or hookers?

Security cameras around the areas where the children had disappeared showed a common thing, indeed - a black sedan with mud splashed on its license plate.

Combined, the location of certain deaths and disappearances gave a general radius of an abandoned neighborhood as a central focus of all the incident. It could have been anywhere within the impoverished neighborhood, were it not for one thing: the so-called 'messiah' mentioned by several different witnesses. Following a description, one could figure that he would be commonly found within an abandoned church in the area. But why, and how…

Why and how are never the answers you really want to hear. They're usually ugly things. But part of the job is bringing ugly things to light, so Sara pulled a car from the police lot and pulled Paul from their basement office to drive down to the area they've managed to narrow things down to. "You know, I may not make it to church every Sunday," she says as she pulls into a spot a block or two away. "But I've sort of got a problem with people running these sorts of things out of churches. Church is supposed to be a safe place."

"Well, murder is a time honored tradition of religion. And so is telling people what they want to hear so they give you money." Paul comments as he waits for the car to come to a halt. Opening the door, he climbs out and checks his gun. "If you start trying to chop me into pieces, I'm going to shoot you in the leg." he promises.

Well they are called Heroes for Hire, mainly because Heroes for ProBono doesn't have the same ring to it. Sure most of the kids that were taken were the impoverished, but they need help as well. So when a few of the parents got together and came to the office asking about hiring Iron Fist, well he gave them the low rate of one dollar, flat fee. What good is being a billionaire if you can't do the ProBono stuff. He contacted some of the friends he has in the police force and got all the information he needed about the case.

And that brings Danny to the church. He doesn't have the car or anything that others do, instead he decided to hoof it, and is currently watching for a nearby alley. That's the good thing about Gotham there are always nearby alleys around. Even with the green and yellow outfit, Danny is able to blend into the shadows thangs to the training he has done. But he hangs out there, watching looking to see if he can spot anything there.

The church was dark, barely lit. But it at least seemingly was clean, at least compared to the rest of the neighborhood, which were essentially dead wrecks. It was one of the hidden secrets of Manhattan - the dark underbelly that was a result of a complete and utter failure of landlords in maintenance, a result of overpricing and underservicing.

There was the sound of singing, low and quiet, from the church. Whatever was going on, it seemed to be hymnals.

"Why would I be trying to chop you into pieces?" Sara arches a brow at Paul as she hits the locks on the car, tucking the keys into her pockets. "Are you making some sort of anti-religion joke that I'm too good of a Catholic girl to get?" Because Sara just screams innocent. She looks casual as she walks toward the church, one thumb hooked in her belt, but there's something about her posture that speaks to the sort of people who look for marks and says quite clearly that she isn't one. As they draw close enough to the church to hear the chanting, she grimaces. "That ain't mass."

"Why did the kids chop up their parents?" Paul returns in answer. He nods his agreement to her comment about the chanting then pauses outside the church and glances at Sara. "Churches are kind of public buildings, right? And we have reason to believe kidnapping victims and murders are inside." They just happen to be the same. "Shall we?"

The singing is definitely creepy, the man thinks as the Hero for Hire moves closer to the building. The shadows are his friend, ninja training for the win! He spots the two others also walking up, and does his best to stay out of sight of them. Hey you never know who can be walking around here. And the last thing Iron Fist needs is to be held up. But instead of going staight to a door, Danny tries to peak into a stained glass window to see what is going on in there. Hey last thing he needs is to barge into a church service or something.

Oh it was a simple view inside the church. A man wearing a black t-shirt with white jacket and pants over it orchestrating a singing choir of children.

It was rows after rows of children, looking somewhat pale and glass-eyed, all singing.

o/~ He's got the whole world in his hands, he's got the whole world in his hands… he's got the whole world in his hands, he's got the whole world in his hands.

As the church door opens, the song stop.

And slowly, the children turn to stare at Paul and Sara.

"I'm pretty sure whoever's in there isn't on the lease," Sara assures Paul when he provides his justification, unclipping the catch on her holster before pushing the door open to step inside. "Yeah," she murmurs when confronted with a choir of staring children. "Totally not creepy in here." She takes a deeper breath, then raises her hand with a forced, NYPD public face smile. "Afternoon, everyone. I'm Detective Pezzini, this is Detective Manning. We were hoping we could ask you some questions."

Paul slips in after Sara, scanning the interior and he lets the door swing closed behind him. "Odds are that's our insane Fagin?" he murmurs for his partner's ears. After a quick look at the one adult in the room, he concentrates on the kids to try to match faces to pics of the missing kids that have been reported.

Well okay this definitely interesting, and well hey the cops are here, this is a good thing. Well done looking in, Danny does the smart thing. He leaves the area where he was and goes around back, to enter from the back entrance to the place, someone has to make sure whoever is in there doesn't leave out the back.

Face after face seem to match up indeed. Some unfamiliar, but a lot of familiar faces as well.

The large bushy-bearded messiah leading the chorus smiles a wide eerie grin. "Welcome! Behold, I bring you the downtroddened. The masses yearning to be free, those who have shakened off their yokels and discovered truth! Those who have followed the buzzards…"

The back entrance was empty, at least for the moment. Two tall men, both bushy-beared, however, have just left the back entrance, and moved towards the 'messiah', falling in place, folding their arms and staring in much the same manner.

Candlelight flickers, dancing in glassy-eyed children's eyes as they remain silent, staring quietly at the cops.

"I don't think those words mean what you think they mean." Sara glances over the kids, but she has most of her attention on the would-be priest and his goons. "You seem to have a lot of missing persons here, sir," she notes, reaching for her badge to show it to the choir.

"It was good of you to give them shelter." Paul adds when Sara trails off. "They could have gotten into a lot of trouble on the street. Or worse. How did they come to you?"

Iron Fist is able to sneak into the back thanks to there being no guards at all there. Man whoever this guy is, isn't all that smart. But once he gets in he stays where he can listen and just hangs back for the moment. Need to see what will happen with the police before he does anything first. Maybe they can talk the kids away from the guy.

"Oh, are they? I found them, of course. The people they should have looked up to… pushed them further down into the abyss from which they could barely hold on. They hungered, they wept, they were looking for heroes. Where were the heroes to be found?" The 'messiah' smiles, throwing his arms wide open and lifting his chin up to the ceiling in rapture. "I showed them - there are no role models in this world. Their fates… lies in -their- own hands."

Lowering his chin, the man looks at them, his eyes hooded by dark brows, as the two men next to him nods.

And then the 'messiah' begins to orchestrate his hands once more:

o/~ He's got the wind and rain in his hands, he's got the wind and rain in his hands, he's got the wind and rain in his hands… he's got the whole world in his hands… o/~

And then the candlelights flicker out.

And the next chorus begins: o/~ He's got the sinner man in his hands, he's got the sinner man in his hands, he's got the sinner man in his hands, he's got the whole world in his hands…

And when the lights come on once again, the children are wearing buzzard masks, staring once more at the cops…

And the two men standing next to the 'messiah' are gone…

… although much to his displeasure, Iron Fist might find out just exactly -where- the men have gone, as two large ham-fists are coming at him from behind.

"Yeah," Sara replies as the man talks about heroes. "Thing is…you're wrong about heroes."

The lights go out, but when they come back up, the children aren't the only ones who've changed. Sara was wearing jeans, a t-shirt, a sensible blazer. But when the lights come back up, she's clad in armor in shades of dark steel and silver, a low amber glow behind her eyes and a sword in her hand.

"There are heroes."

As soon as the lights flicker off, Paul unholsters his gun though he doesn't aim it yet. At Sara's transformation, he says "We are so going to talk after this." but leaves it at that. They have more pressing problems at the moment and he moves to the side, putting some distance between them.

Well Danny was prepared to make his move when the guy mentioned the heroes. Hey if that wasn't a good come on in and show yourself line there isn't such a thing. Of course at that moment he has a large hand that turns him around and forces him to face to rather large gentlemen. The first thought throw his mind, he should have brought a partner. "Would you believe that I'm here to make a donation to the church?"

The messiah's reaction to the Witchblade appearing before him was a brief pause, before he threw his hands wide, a booming cackling laugh echoing off the wall, as the children shifts, humming a low tune that somehow promised crumbling decay, darkness, as they shift to form a protective circle around the messiah. "Ah, but there -are- heroes, of course. They are their own heroes. They -will- take care of themselves, no longer helpless sheep subject to the whims of those who would place themselves above them! If you seek heroism… then follow the buzzards…!"

"No," was the brusque reply from one of the henchmen, as one sought to grapple, and hold, the other to try and hammer blows on the Iron Fist.

"It's always the crazy ones on this beat," Sara calls back to Paul when the messiah laughs, starting toward him with a purposeful stride. "I'm all for empowering kids, buddy. But this? Not the way that's supposed to go. I'm only going to say it once: Let the kids go." There's a sullen red and hard blue glow from the stones in her armor, and the candlelight strikes off of sharp barbs at elbow and shoulder, a silent threat.

"Hiding behind children." Paul states and there's open contempt in his voice. "That you're a coward comes as no surprise. The profile on you says you're impotent too. Is that right? Or maybe it's just with adults. Is that it? Explains all the kids and why you had them kill their parents. Mommy issues if I ever saw them. Pretty pathetic." As he talks, he mimics Sara's movement toward the so-called messiah but he walks around the outside of the church inside of down the middle aisle. With all the kids between them, he's not aiming at the guy. Yet.

Well Danny decides to be a little sporting with the guys, so yeah the one is able to grab him around the waist, and even traps one arm. Of course that does leave the Iron Fist's legs and left arm free and he makes full use of them. He swings one leg up trying to strike at any part he can of Thug #1 (Thief Kick of the Eight Deceptions) as for the guy holding him, well he swings his elbow back, towards the guys face (Elbow of the Boiling Priest). "Guys we don't need to do this. It really isn't going to end well for you, honest."

RThe sound of thrashing from the backroom draws the messiah's attention for only a second, but his henchmen are gone, and so he shifts his attention to Paul's jibes for the moment. "If you want them, you may have them! My children, go with him."

As the children withdraw their protective circle, they start to move towards Paul, swaying back and forth, singing, their eyes dead behind their masks, moving to surround him, to touch him, to hug him… and essentially, to immobilize him while the messiah approaches Sara.

"Come then, officer of the shield, wielder of the blade. Bring me your love!" he exclaims, falling to his knees, casting his arms wide apart.

Iron Fist will find, of course, that he's going to have an easy time moving circles around them, although they -are- surprisingly agile and fast for big men… especially the black-bearded one, who, after being pushed back by the kick, is charging and almost practically leaping on him with what seems like a flying headbutt, trying to drive him back and out towards the main room, while the red-bearded one is falling back and clutching his face from the elbow to the face.

Sara almost hesitates. He's a man, whatever else is going on. He's committed crimes. He needs to be locked up. The Witchblade, on the other hand? It always wants blood. She settles for somewhere in the middle ground, the blade in her hand shifting until it rests along her forearm as she reaches out to take the messiah by the throat. "Release them," she snarls, a red and amber glow behind her eyes. "Whatever you're doing to them, get out!"

As the kids start to surround him, Paul reholsters his gun and secures it before diving over them and into a simple somersault to bring him back to his feet. He quickly starts backing away from them to avoid possibly hurting them. "Knock him out if you have to." That should be a safe bet.

One taken down for now, one more to go, and that one is making it very easy for him with the move he is doing. Danny is able to counter the flying headbutt move by turning it into a throw (Assasin Throw of Hidden Agonies). "You guys don't talk much do you?" Damnit needs to get some more people, he needs backup for times like this.

Arms akimbo, the 'messiah' barely bats an eye as the blade comes to rest underneath his chin. "They are -free-. Free from society, free from conventions, free from the chains that held them down. If you want them, you will have to re-shackle them to the chains that held them. Back to parents that beat them, back to the uncaring that left them unfed and yearning for things. You call yourself heroes? Then free them."

Swaying, the children move almost in sync, herding Paul, if he's not trying to push through them, towards the exit of the church.

Of course, anything further is going to be interrupted, as Iron Fist's throw brings the black-bearded henchman into the church proper, sending him crashing into the pews. The red-bearded henchman takes advantage of the chance, hoever, to get back into the action as he aims for a spear-tackle back into the room proper.

"Freedom is not about chopping anyone into pieces," Sara informs the messiah, one hand closing around his throat as she swings a punch at him with the other. "Get out." Punch. "Of their heads." Punch. No one really wonders why the cameras get turned off if Pezzini needs to do an interrogation anymore.

Paul lets himself be slowly herded up the aisle if only to keep them from interfering with Sara. At the crash, he looks toward the back of the church, hesitating about whether to reach for his gun again or not. There's just too damned many children in this room. But so long as the men are fighting each other, he'll assume one isn't working for the crazy guy.

Well after flipping the one guy, Danny was completely unprepared for the attack from the other. He should have known that one was coming, but alas he got lost in the moment. Because of that the Red-Bearded henchman and does indeed get speared by that guy. Of course Danny tries to punch at the guy to free himself.

Blood gusts from the messiah's mouth as he's rocked back on his knees. Swaying, he turns his head, spits on the ground, and then turns back, eyes ablaze. "Don't you -understand-? They -did- it of their own free will! Follow the buzzards, follow the buzzards!'

Laughing, laughing, the man brushes the blood off his hand, and then licks it while his throat is being gripped. Hands lock down onto the wrist, grasping, before a knee comes up into Sara's abdomen, much stronger than anything someone has every right to expect, to attempt to free himself.

The children sway back and forth, singing. Hands reaches out to grasp at Paul's gun, trying to free him of it, other hands start trying to pull him down. "You will not take us back…"

"You will not take us back home…"

"We don't like it there…"

Iron Fist's blow does free him, but considering the predicament, well, the man in the pew is already swinging back into action, trying to throw him back where Paul is being swarmed.

The knee drives the air from Sara's lungs in a rush, and though she tries to tighten her grip around the messiah's throat, she isn't quite fast enough. Not that the gauntlet doesn't leave lines of blood behind when she's pushed away. "Bullshit," she pants, bracing a hand against the floor as she crouches. "Kids might not always be nice, but they don't just get up and chop up their parents. And they don't all decide to do the same thing either. You want freedom? Take a deep breath. This is the last you're going to see of it!" And with those words, she pushes off the ground, throwing herself at the man.

Going for his gun? That is so not going to happen. Paul slaps any reaching hands away and continues to back away. "Don't make me hurt you." he warns. "You will not like what happens if you grab my gun. But I promise you, you will not go home. Just go sit down and you can stay here." Till enough backup arrives to take them all to juvie. Or a mental hospital. But definitely not home. It's difficult keepign an eye on Sara, the possible threat of Danny and the one he's fighting and all the kids when the priority is safeguarding the gun. "Go SIT DOWN!"

"This ends now." Is all Danny says as he is freed from the red bearded guy. His fist begins to glow until it becomes like unto a thing of iron! He strikes with it at the nearest guy to him (Flaming Ten Fighters Knuckle) trying to knock the guy out. Anyone else here want to try anything? Hopefull that has taken out one guy, now lets see if Bearded Man #2 goes to check on his friend.

Throwing herself at the man might work… if he didn't display amazing agility, throwing himself backwards, letting Sara fly over him. Arching his back, the man begins to walk on his hands and feet towards her, in a spider-walk, laughing maniacally. "Bind me, then, imprison me. We shall see what kind of hero you will be, shall we?"

And then he falls down, spinning up onto his knees, and leaping for the woman, attempting to grasp her, not for an assault, but for a wild, reckless laugh in her face.

The children slow down, no longer trying to hold Paul then. The vacant look in their faces remain, and one might, suddenly, realize that it wasn't -hypnosis- after all, but hopelessness, despair, and surrender. The masks remain, staring at Paul, hands slumped down.

The redbearded man is down for the count, and the black-bearded man halts, the wild-look in his eyes going towards his comrade. He gesticulates, mostly towards the children. Go, go, take them.

Sara rolls when she lands, thrusting out a hand toward the would-be messiah with a snarl. Thick ropes of whatever the Witchblade is made of shoot out toward him, wrapping around his neck to keep him from escaping. "I'm not just a hero," she growls, gathering her will. "I'm NYPD." Rolling, she flings her arm and the ropes of metal toward the nearest wall, trying to slam him hard enough against it to knock him out.

Paul stops when the kids stop and studies the children. He does spare a look toward Sara to make sure she's got the situation in hand. Though it seems she's not having as easy a time of it as he assumed she would, it does seem mostly in control. Which is to say, she's not really hurt and the insane guy is. "Need a hand, Pezzini?" he calls, turning back to look at the kids. "Okay. Please, go sit in the pews and just wait there. Like I said, none of you will be taken back home."

Woot, all hail the power of the Iron Fist! One of the guys is down for the count, and the other is just looking at his partner right now. "I warned you this wasn't going to end well." Hey the guy is like a bad ass martial artist even without the fist, plus you know he killed a dragon! He leaps at the guy, and aims a kick towards the black bearded guy (Sapphire Storm of the Bloodthirsty Wolf).

The 'messiah' is caught, not surprisingly as he was spending his time taunting Sara to her face. Sent flying to slam against the wall, it cracks behind him, and the man goes still, crumpling into a heap against the Witchblade-tendrils.

The children don't move. They just don't respond. It's as though the switch went out, as they stand there, their attention shifted towards Sara, all watching.

And the black-bearded guy? Falls before the storm of the wolf.

The candlelight flickers, leaving the heroes standing with the buzzard-masked children.

"All good here," Sara calls back to Paul as the Witchblade retreats until it's just a gauntlet. "One messed up messiah down." She cuffs the man, then straightens to look back to the kids, something in her expression softening. "It's going to be okay, guys," she says more gently, walking back toward them. "Everybody, masks off. You're safe. You've got nothing to hide from."

Paul nods his agreement then says to Sara "Call for backup and transport." Reaching into his pocket, he pulls out a cell phone. "They're going to need lawyers and I know one who'll probably get her firm involved in some pro bono work once she hears the details." Which never came from him, of course. But negelected and abused children, even if they were manipulated into murder, are just her thing.

See things have worked out, and Danny has totally earned that dollar he was paid for this case! Well it appears that the cops have the things in order, so that makes it even better. He doesn't want to disturb the kids anymore so he tries to sneak away from the scene. Hopefully no one will spot him leaving and like try and do something stupid like stop him or something like that.

The children slowly turn their faces towards Sara. And then they begin to sing, slowly turning away from her, moving towards the unconscious messiah. o/~ He's got you and me, brother, in his hands… he's got you and me, brother, in his hands… he's got the whole world in his hands…

And when the transport arrive, to take the children away, and to imprison the messiah and his henchmen, they'll find the children continuing to hum away, seated before the unconscious messiah, staring at Sara and Paul…

THE END?


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