The Axe, Part 1

July 12, 2014: Lara Croft goes to visit an old friend and finds something and someone unexpected.

Hell's Kitchen

The swanky apartment of Welsh archaeologist, Rhys Bale


Pepita by Calexico:

Mood Music: The email from Rhys Bale; a respected Welsh archaeologist and colleague of Lara Croft, stated he'd found something remarkable about an artifact that he believed to be the "Axe." Though he didn't mention it in the email, Croft knew about a recent expedition by Bale to Croatia and she knew he was looking for something called the Axe of Perun, a piece of Slavic mythology that belonged to its namesake, the highest god of ancient Slavs.

Bale noted that he understood Croft's time schedule, but he figured that she would very much like to take a look at it, and wanted to ask her a few questions about it. He left the address of his flat and let her know that calling him would probably be no use as the eccentric 'digger' was no longer carrying a cell phone because the constant irritations clouded his mind.

While Hell's Kitchen used to be the worst place in the city, there are still nice parts, and with a mild fortune (rather than an immense one) property was relatively easy to procure.

Lara is not one to resist the temptation of ogling an artifact, especially when it is currently residing just across the river from her manor in Gotham. She uses the lovely summer day as an excuse to ride her motorcycle to Hell's Kitchen. People are less apt to go after a cyclist due to the badass factor, right? She heads for Rhys' flat.

The door man smiles to Lara and lets her in after she parks her bike and approaches the nice brick building. When Lara gets to the doorway, a lone door that makes up most of the floor, she will see that the doorway is propped open slightly.

There's music coming from inside along with the smell of burning incense.

"Rhys?" Lara calls as she pushes open the door and peers inside. "You left your door open." The incense makes her wrinkle her nose a bit. Not that she hasn't smelled much, much worse at some of her tomb raidings.

The door creaks a bit as it opens up to show the swanky apartment. Dark hardwood lies underneath strategically placed rugs of Eurasian design. Immaculate white furniture is placed around a coffee table on one side of the large flat-a place for discussion-while another communal area with a gigantic flat screen television stands off towards the back near the floor to ceiling windows. Every other window is pulled open, angled to let the air in, creating a nice cross wind that keeps the home cool without forcing air conditioner.

Off to her right a long corridor with two guest rooms, a bathroom, and at the back Rhys bedroom. Lara never had the 'pleasure', despite many attempts by the Welshman. However his conquests have been pretty legendary.

"Rhys?" Lara calls again as she shifts her motorcycle helmet under her arm. She unzips her jacket since it's much too warm for it without being in motion on the bike. She begins glancing into rooms, looking for the Welshman.

Again, no answer.

If this is some sort of game of hide and go seek, Lara may find it irritating. Bale, while fond of games, seemed serious and composed in his email and would probably be above such a prank. Nevertheless, as she looks left into the first room, it is empty in terms of the search. There's a computer with stacks and stacks of paperwork on a counter, on his desk and even lined up along the walls. Though the rest of the home is neat, his work area is a cluttered mess.

Off to the guest bedroom on the other side-a pure white comforter over the king sized bed with big fluffy pillows that haven't been touched in quite some time from the look of it. As Lara looks farther ahead, towards the back bedroom, she can see what looks like a fleshy nub that looks like a toe from this distance, hanging into her field of view.

The sight of what might be a toe has her picking up the pace as well as unlimbering the .45 pistol from her cross draw holster. She sets the helmet on a hall table and puts both hands on the gun, holding it low and away, just a precaution. She steps slowly, and cautiously, to the bedroom.

With each step, Lara gets more and more of a view of what lies in the room.

It was a toe, followed by the ankle and the leg. Unclear but it looks like Rhys. With a few more steps its clear he is completely naked, and by the time she gets to his face she is sure that he is dead.His face is not even recognizable anymore; it's been completely blown away in a mess of spattered read, the pink of meat, and the pale of flesh. His curly graying hair takes away any hopes that he is in fact someone else.

"He's dead," a low, recognizable whisper comes from the corner, the crimson silhouetted in the black of the lightless room; the red eyes of the mask looking cold and lifeless.

"I'm sorry you had to find out in this way."

Lara's face falls to an expression of sadness. She whirls at the voice, leveling the gun at the man in red, before her lizard brain gets beaten by the rest of her brain at recognizing him. "Daredevil," she says, part greeting, part warning. She hasn't mentioned she's figured out he's also her blind lawyer. "What are you doing here? What happened to Rhys?" The gun is lowered, slowly.

"Same thing I do for you."

The remark has a double meaning of course doesn't it? Both Daredevil and Matt work for Lara. It's not clear which one he means, if not both. Does she know? Does he know she knows?

"From what I can tell, it was a shotgun blast to the head. Body was not moved-splatter was only here." His gloved hand motions towards the top of the bed as Daredevil's senses continue to work.

Naked. Incense. Perfume. Not Lara's. She doesn't wear it and it's far too weak. Dissipated. Windows were opened before. Breeze. Temperature warmer than the living room. Blinds clack against each other with the wind. Clack is annoying. Shot came from about 65 degree trajectory. Standing over him. She? Not certain. Enough to go by for now.

"Did Bale have any enemies that you know of?"

Of course they all do in this business don't they? There were any one of a half dozen rivals that Lara knows about, probably more she doesn't. It's a dirty business and bad feelings die hard.

"Plenty. How do you know it was a shotgun blast?" Lara asks, peering at the vigilante. If that isn't a clue that she knows who he is, nothing is. Anyone with working eyes can tell it was a shotgun. She doesn't touch anything, careful not to contaminate the crime scene, despite a desperate urge to cover the man up and protect his dignity in death, regardless of whether or not he had any in life.

"Well, the fragments of his face being splattered all over the bed, wall, and crack between the bed and the wall were a pretty good hint, Lara."

Daredevil makes no move from the corner, using the darkness as his ally should Lara believe it was him who did the shooting. Although, given what she knows about him, that might be pretty hard wouldn't it? Or would it?

"What about women? This guy get around?"

"Very much so, though not with me. I think that was why we were still friends and colleagues. I wouldn't sleep with him." Thus he respected her. Lara tips her head towards the hallway, inviting Daredevil to follow. She is a tough woman, but she doesn't need to be standing in a room with the naked, faceless corpse of a friend. She heads for the common area. "How can you see the splatter, Matt?" she asks. Well then, there it is. "Do you just pretend to be blind in your day job?"

He couldn't see the head move, no. But he could hear the hair on her back and shoulders move and the sound of her voice and the slight echoes paints a photograph in his mind for him. He follows along.

"Cut the quick, don't you?" Daredevil smiles a bit as he follows her out into the room and closes the door behind them. "Listen, the cops can't know until I'm done here. Half the force is inept, the other half corrupt. I only know tw…one cop I trust. The other just died."

"I suspected when I hired you onto the expedition. When you didn't even flinch at the sight of Predator X in all his frozen glory, it cemented it. Only a blind man wouldn't react to that," Lara explains. "But a blind man also wouldn't be flinging himself off rooftops and fighting crime, so I'm rather confused." She grimaces at the notes about the police force. "We can't wait until you finish, the doorman saw me come in, there's a timeline. I need to make the call now. What is the response time for police here?" She pulls out her cell phone.

"How does that feel? Being confused?" Daredevil says as he ignores her comment about the police, the doorman, and the timeline. He sits behind the desk and exhales, trying to think. "We need this computer to be analyzed by someone not in Blue, if you catch my meaning."

Lara Croft nods. "Take it then, but clean up the area so it doesn't look like there was one there. Where is the Axe of Perun? He called me here to inspect it. If it's missing, we have our motive."

"Been here for twenty minutes now. Got here just after. There was-" His voice trails. He doesn't want to mention how he knows it was just after. "I searched it over after finding the body. Didn't find an axe."

Lara's recommendation tells him, he hopes, she won't squeal to the cops about it. At least not until he's gotten it to someone who will tell him the truth on it.

"You want in on this?" he asks as he unhooks the laptop and begins to prepare to get the hell out of Dodge.

"Of course. A friend of mine is dead, and I could have very well been set up for his murder. I want whoever did this," Lara vows as she hits 911 and puts on her best "shaken up and scared" voice. "Operator, I need police and a coroner immediately. There has been a dreadful murder." She gives her name and the address before ending the call. "Let me know when you find anything." For her part, she needs to research the Axe and find out what was so special about it that someone would kill a barmy Welshman for it.

Daredevil nods as he begins to leave, "I'll be in touch. Also, you know how to get a hold of me. Or whoever this Matt guy is." He, of course, waits until Lara's off the phone with the police to make the comment. He reaches for his billy club and heads for the window, wondering the best person to take the laptop to.

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