Strange Tales #3

Oct 3, 2012 by     6 Comments    Posted under: Midnight Sons, Strange Tales

BOOM

“…heavy lifting and groceries…” Wong continued…grunting…

BOOM

“And your main job would be… and I quote:”

BOOM

Wong pushed all of his weight against the heavy wooden door… “To make sure we’re not eaten by an army of goblins…”

BOOM

Stephen looked up from the enormous tome… “Those aren’t goblins, it’s a troll…”

BOOM

Wong almost flew from the door, but regained his footing and pressed back against the door of the house on 177A Bleecker St. He glared at Strange… and continued quoting his friends earlier words “Besides, Wong… The house is hidden! No one would be able to bother you…”

BOOM

Strange grimaced and finally found the passage he was looking for. He put a gloved finger on the passage. “I see your point… This is an… unusual situation. Don’t worry, I’ll get it sorted.”

BOOM

Wong had all his energy and weight into keeping the door from flying off its hinges. “Don’t make me regret moving out of Chinatown, Strange.”

Strange put the book on a chair, and put his hand on the door. “Signaveris hoc Porta! Custodite omen periculo!” The room was filled with a Blinding LIGHT!

– – –
STRANGE TALES #3
TURNABOUT IS FAER PLAY
– – –
– Ten hours earlier. 12:40pm –

“Hey…..” It was a chilly early-afternoon in mid-November, and the traffic all across Manhattan was backed up. Even in Greenwich Village.

“Hey…” The shaggy haired young man leaning out the passenger window of the beat-up Cadillac called out to Stephen Strange, who was carefully carrying two cups of coffee, one in each hand. Strange put one down, and fished out the keys to his house. He was lost in thought. “Hey, man! You there?”

Strange snapped out of his reverie and looked at the beat-up Caddy, and then at the smiling beatnik leaning out the window. “Mm?”

The shaggy haired man smiled and waved. “Hey man, lemme ask ya… You know why the traffic’s all backed up?”

As if the idea of traffic had only just now entered Stephen’s mind, he considered the question, then looked up and down the street. “Ah, no. Actually… no, I don’t.”

The young man scratched his unruly hair. “You haven’t heard ANYTHING about it?” started to smooth out the hairs of his goatee’d chin. “Like, do you know of any good ways into Brooklyn?”

Strange unlocked his door, and picked up the second cup of coffee. “Well, I usually take the train…”

A young black man sitting in the driver’s seat took his hat off and leaned over to talk out the window “Train’s down. And traffic’s at a standstill the minute you get near the bridges…”

He stopped and gave it thought. Wong had kept the Plymouth Fury that the mystery thugs had driven during their last case… but since acquiring the car, Strange hadn’t driven anywhere. He tried! He really missed driving, but turning the wheel and operating the gears seemed to require more precision than his injured arms could give. Strange shook his head…”I’m sorry, I don’t know what to tell you. I don’t drive, myself…”

The men groaned. the driver pounded the wheel. “We’ve been driving for 24 hours and we’re STILL gonna miss our gig tonight, man. Might as well just park it and find something else local.”

Strange smiled, shrugged and said “Sorry…” The two men drove away and Strange walked into his house.

Just past the foyer, in what used to be the parlor, Strange and Wong had changed it up to resemble an office and receiving area. In a chair in front of the desk sat a short, fidgeting man who looked up at Stephen with a little alarm. Stephen smiled and handed him one of the cups of coffee.

“There you go, Mr. Garonne”

“Thanks…” The man took the cup and took a sip. He seemed to calm down a bit. “Yeah, thanks. That’s good.”

Strange sat at the desk and looked at the man. “All right… so how about… you start again, from the top.”

Tony Garonne was a man in his mid-to-late twenties. His attitude and manner suggested that he didn’t actually have the skills or resolve to be manager of the Triangle Social Club as he claimed. He didn’t seem to be able to manage anything. He was twitchy, and carried an air about him that suggested he spent most of his day putting on a facade of toughness. He was trying to use it to intimidate Strange from the moment he was first let inside. His nervousness and false machismo was the reason Strange had left the house, to get some coffee… in an effort to let Tony simmer down.

“My boss. Nicky Rossini… has been hassled by… let’s say, an unknown aggressor. Late at night, people had been outside the club yelling at him. The guard…” he adjusted his collar and continued “None of the cops could tell where they were yelling from. No one was caught.”

Strange sat at the desk, his hand resting on a pen and a notebook. His hands had been cramping lately, He’d only been able to manage writing items onto shopping lists. Taking elaborate notes, like dictation, was too precise a process for his pained hands and arms to handle. He looked at Tony and listened very carefully. “What were they yelling?”

Tony simply shrugged his shoulders. “I wasn’t there. I dunno. But no one there could find the people who were doing it.”

Strange tapped his notebook… “And this all started… when?”

“The yelling, like, two or three weeks ago, I think.” Tony scratched his cheek and winced. “So, this goes on for a few weeks, yeah? Okay. So. Two nights ago, that’s when the laundry came.”

“Yes, tell me about the laundry again. It wasn’t a regular laundry delivery…”

“Well he thought it was. The usual load went out that Monday. But when it came back, it was delivered to the club and it wasn’t clean. It was all… uh, bloody.”

“So it hadn’t been cleaned up from…”

Tony looks at Strange with a wide eyed accusatory look “EY. NO WAY man. Do you know Mr. Rossini?! What are you saying? That Mr. Rossini would already HAVE bloody clothes? And that he’d just go and send ’em to the laundry?”

Here he goes again, Strange thought.

Strange smiled and shook his head, waved a gloved hand “No. Please, you misunderstand me.” Strange activated a calming-charm on his desk, which he was using as a paperweight. Tony’s breath slowed almost immediately and the red flush faded from his face as Strange said to him “I used to be a doctor, I simply wanted to ensure that Mr. Rossini didn’t sustain an injury previous to this load going out…”

“Right… Yeah. I get it. Sorry. No, uh, when they went out, the clothes were just a regular kind of dirty. The ladies brought the clothes to the club. NOT his house; and they were covered in blood. And after that they must followed him to his house, and his wife and kids got scared for their safety. They kept on yelling, but more frequently. Sometimes during the day.”

Strange tapped his chin… “Your story is very interesting, and I think there is something I can do to help.” He moved his chair over to the side of his desk where a typewriter sat. he typed in some words. He looked back at Tony. “You’ll be able to take me to this club?”

Tony nodded amicably “Ah.. yeah. I can take you by the club. It’s not too far away. Show you the laundry.”

“And your boss’s house, so I can talk to him?”

Tony stiffened up. “Well, ah… maybe. Let’s see how this goes first, and…” Strange looked at him with a sideways glance as he punched a few more words into the typewriter. Tony quirked as he said “Look, ah, I understand you’d be someone who can take care of this. Yeah?”

Strange looked the page over, nodded, then folded it up and put it into his sports coat pocket.

“Yes, that’s right.”

He stood up, and Tony Garonne stood up too. “I’ll need to look into a few things. I won’t be able to do anything until my partner shows up…”

At that moment, the door swung open and Wong walked in. He didn’t notice Tony Garonne at first as he said “Strange, I think I have a lead on a new case.”

Tony puffed up and he put his fingers to Wong’s chest… “EY there Charlie Chan! I’m talking with the…” Wong shot a look back into Tony’s eyes, not moving back or yielding ground at Tony’s outburst. Tony wavered… dropped his hand, and took a step and faded back. Wong glared at him and the looked back at Strange and jerked his head in Tony’s direction, with an incredulous expression on his face.

Strange looked at Tony with an arched eyebrow. “This is Tony Garonne. He and his boss are having a spot of trouble…”

Wong kept his eyes on Strange. He held up a notebook “I think this would take precedence, Strange…”

Tony piped in with a note of panic in his voice, but still trying to appear tough. “EY! Come on now!?”

“One moment, Tony…” Strange took Wong to the side. “Wong, you should try to be a little more sensitive around our clientele.”

In hushed tones Wong replied “I’ve seen him around. He’s a mob flunky, Strange…”

“Yeah, I came to that conclusion too.” Strange admitted.

“So what are we wasting time on him, for?”

“Wong… would you ask me to turn someone away?”

“This guy would break someone’s arm if they were late on a payment.”

“This guy?” Strange and Wong both looked back at looked at the small fidgeting man… “He doesn’t look like he could break anyone’s arms… including MINE…”

“He’d know someone who could. The guy’s connected, Strange. He’s bad news.”

“Nevertheless, he found us, he needs our help.” Strange put his hands together. “Look. If someone came after him because he knocked over a store or beat someone up… who’d care, right? Crime begets crime. He got what was coming to him. Right?” Strange pointed back at him. “But what if there was a…a… vampire? Or something like a Mind-wight, that affected you last week? His story involved his boss… Probably a lot more dangerous man than he, yes… but what if the target was his children? There’s more to what WE do than what it is that HE does, Wong.” Wong looked away with a bitter edge in his eyes. Strange pat his shoulder “Look… anyone who finds us and asks us for help… we’ve got to do it.”

Wong sighed and shrugged his shoulders. “I guess. All right. So he’s got just as much right to be here as anyone else, but Strange… ” Wong opened his pocket notebook and proffered it to Strange. “I’m telling you. I’ve got a pretty strong feeling that this is a lot more serious.”

Strange took the small notebook from Wong and read it. He turned the page and read some more. His face darkened and turned a lot more serious…. He looked at Wong, who nods at him. “The car’s out front. I can take you there now.”

Strange snapped the notebook closed and walked over to Tony Garonne and pat his shoulder “Mr. Garonne… I WILL get moving on your case today.” He pat his shoulder again… “Right now though… there is something quite urgent I need to look into. How about we meet at the club later this afternoon?”

– – –
– – –
2:10pm – Chinatown

Mr. & Mrs. Chen lived in the same building that Wong had lived in upon first moving to New York. They sat in the sofa of their modest living room apartment, holding each others’ hands, trying to keep their emotions in check. But clearly incredibly nervous… rattled… and scared. The couple didn’t speak any English. Wong sat next to the sofa and translated for Stephen as they recounted what they told Wong that morning.

Wong looked to Strange. “Mrs. Chen said they’ve already been seen by a long line of doctors.”

Strange’s eyebrows furrowed. “I’m not a doctor anymore, Wong.” Then his face softened. “But tell her I am a specialist.. and…”

Wong said softly “She knows, Strange. It’s all right.”

Strange looked at the parents with a soft and concerned expression. “May I see them?” Stephen asked. Wong turned and translated… Mrs. Chen trembled… Mr. Chen put his arm around her and nodded to Wong, but said something.

Wong stood up and walked over to Strange. “Yes. But they are not going with us.” Strange nodded… and nodded to Mr. & Mrs. Chen. Mrs Chen was crying, and Mr. Chen nodded back in acknowledgment… Wong walked over to a bedroom door “Over here, Strange…”

The two men walked in the room. It was a simple room, two windows on the wall, two chairs, and one crib. There were colorful hangings on the wall of baby tigers, pandas and little cherubic babies… Inside the crib, the twin babies turned to see the new people in the room.

Strange and Wong walked to the crib. Wong slid the side of the crib down and they knelt to look at the babies. Strange opened up his medicine bag, rooted around among talismans & charms, finally finding what he was looking for. He took out a stethoscope and put the drum against the baby girl’s chest.

Wong spoke as Stephen inspected them “I gave them a checkup too… as far as I can tell… they are healthy baby twins. But their parents say, and I gotta say I’m with them on this, Strange, they say something’s not right with them.”

The baby girl pulled at Strange’s finger and smiled. She was adorable. And her brother tilted on his side and sucked on his hand, looking curiously between Strange and Wong. He kicked his feet up and grabbed his toes. “What’s not right? I’m keeping an open mind but they seem… normal. What is it about them that’s off?” Once he said that, the baby boy sat up next to his sister… and both heads turned to look at Strange. They both extended their right hand and held them open, palms up…

Strange and Wong backed up. The twins sat perfectly still, Not like babies do… babies who are still learning how their muscles and bodies work. They sat like statues as they looked at the two of them, blinking in unison. “Okay… yes, that is off.” The babies looked at Strange when he spoke, as if they understood. Wong shivered. “Wong…” Strange asked softly as he turned to look at him “Can I see your notebook…”

Wong handed him his small pocket notebook. Strange took a pencil from his medicine bag and carefully, with effort, wrote down a half dozen words. He tore the sheet from the book, and pulled out the paper he typed at his desk earlier, and folded the smaller notebook page with it, and put it back in his pocket. The two men stood, and Strange held up his amulet over his eye, and looked at the twins. He saw nothing. No colorful aura or trace magical residue. He let the amulet fall back around his neck and the twins smiled.

Strange and Wong made their way to the nursery door, and the babies started to laugh… neither man turned their head to look at them. Strange carefully closed the door and looked at Wong as they both walked back to the living room to where Mr. and Mrs. Chen sat at the couch. Strange spoke, Wong translated…

“Mr Chen, Mrs, Chen…” His bedside manner was never as good as he wanted it to be. Possibly one of the contributing factors to why his career in medicine went the way it did. But now was the time to change old habits. “There is… still hope.” He kept telling himself he was telling them the truth. “For now… I need to go… to learn more… but I assure you. I will do everything I can to… cure your children.”

– – –
– – –
3:30pm, Greenwich Village

Wong parked the car at the address he was given. It was just around the corner from the 177a Bleecker St. “Is this the right address?” Strange asked.

Putting the car in park and shutting off the engine, Wong looked at his notebook. “This is the address Garonne gave you.”

Strange and Wong climbed out of the car “This is REALLY close to the house.” Wong knocked on the door and he shrugged his shoulders. It was clear he didn’t want to be here.

The door eventually opened and inside stood a twitchy, spooked figure of Tony Garonne. He seemed more on edge than he was at the Sanctum. “S’about time you guys showed up… I gotta get out of here.”

Strange and Wong followed Tony in. “If you want we can go to Mr Rossini’s home?” Tony’s earlier reluctance was something Strange wanted to wear down.

Tony looked at Strange and muttered. “No… uh, the laundry… was delivered HERE, so…” Garonne said, as he led them further into the supper club…which was totally empty.

Wong scoffed “Ah of course, the laundry.” He leaned in toward Stephen and whispered “It’s a good thing we weren’t doing anything important, so we could come here to to look at a pile of clothes”

Wong and Strange suddenly stopped, Tony Garonne was standing at the kitchen door, looking right at them. Wong wasn’t as out of earshot as he thought he was. Tony was looking hard, but also with fear at Strange and Wong when he said “They’re still bleeding.”

Tony opened the door to the kitchen. There were wires and ropes hooked from one wall to the other, and white shirts, suit pants and T-shirts hanging up… all of them bloodied… blood slowly dripping down and falling into sinks, drains, and pots and pans filled to various levels of capacity, filled with blood. “It hasn’t stopped. When I first saw these, it just looked like bloody clothes. When I got back after our meeting, the sack they were in was, uh, soaked through.” Strange walked over and dabbed a bit between his gloved index finger and thumb… he sniffed it, it appeared to be human blood…fresh… as if the clothes were ACTUALLY slowly pumping out BLOOD…

“And it hasn’t stopped?” Wong asked, astonished.

“Yeah.” Tony picked up a mop and started to push a puddle of blood toward the drain.

Strange took out a vial from his medicine bag and collected the drops from the bleeding shirt in front of him. “Tony… You said that the people threatening your boss had been outside the club yelling at him for several weeks. This club is just around the corner from my house… How is it that we’ve not heard ANY of this during this time?”

Tony stopped pushing the puddle of blood to the drain. “Look, man, I dunno!” His voice registered a tinge of panic. “I told you, I wasn’t there for any of this.” he stabbed at the puddle of blood on the floor with his mop. “My boss, all of them, they heard it. The neighbors, they don’t know what he’s talking about. And I’M just the sap that has to clean it UP, OKAY?”

“All right… all right… don’t worry. relax…” Strange bottled up the vial and slipped it into his pocket. He held the amulet up to his eyes and looked at the room… again, there was nothing to see. It revealed no magic. Though clearly, something paranormal was going on. “Tony, listen. I understand you’re in a precarious position. But in order to move forward we need as much information as we can get. It would help us, and you, a great deal if you could take us to your boss’s house so we can talk to him.”

Tony stopped pushing the puddle of gore to the drain and propped the mop against the large basin sink. He was thinking it over, not looking directly in Strange or Wong’s eye… “I… I can take you to the house… But uh, Mr. Rossini isn’t there.”

Strange held out his hands, raised his eyebrows and shook his head… “Tony…help us help you…”

Tony’s tough-guy facade completely fell away. “Look… I can’t. I don’t know where he is. They all left… Mr. Rossini, his family, they’re holed up somewhere. Laying low.” Tony swallowed hard… “I… just run errands. I’m nothing. But they told me to take care of it. Or else…”

Strange looked at Wong, whose face had softened somewhat. Tony wasn’t the mob-tough guy Wong thought he was. Strange fished out the folded typewriter page from his study, and the notebook page from the Chen’s apartment. He held the paper between his fingers and raised his eyebrows to Wong. Wong nodded.

Strange walked over to Tony and put his arm on his shoulder. “Tony… listen. We’re going to straighten this out. Wong’s going to go with you, take him to your boss’s house. Show him around, and to the best of your knowledge, just recount everything that you’ve been told about whoever was doing the yelling.”

Tony nodded and said “Where are you going?”

Strange held up the folded papers in his hand. “Follow a lead.”

– – –
– – –
3:50pm Sanctum Sanctorum.

Strange walked into his house and hung up his coat on the hangar by the door. He pulled his leather chair to the center of the greeting-office and sat down. He held the typewritten page from his meeting with Tony in his left hand… and the notebook page from the investigation at the Chen’s apartment in his right.

He read the words on the typewritten page

“Blood. Yelling. Intimidation. Fear.”

and the following line which read:

“Triangle Club. Woman. Laundry. Mob?”

And the words written on the page from Wong’s pocket notebook.

“Babies. Twins. Possessed? Open hands. Asking? Taking? Laughing”

Stephen breathed slowly… slipped into a meditative state.

This technique had proved useful to him. It was something he was able to do that built on meditation. While concentrating on certain specific things he needed to know. He sat, his eyes closed…as he felt himself float away from his body. He looked down at himself… breathing… holding the paper. Glowing blue lines snaked toward his physical body when he breathed in… and pulled away with each breath out. After a while a few blue tendrils grew to a stronger prominence than the rest. Strange’s astral body was pulled upstairs… to a bookshelf… many of the blue lines from the paper connected to two large books on this shelf…. there were a couple of other lines which traveled a more unusual path… up the attic, out the skylight… and farther out over the bay… he smiled…

Back in the greeting office on the first floor, Strange opened his eyes… he folded the papers and put them in his sports jacket pocket. He walked upstairs and took the two familiar books from the shelf and put them on a table. Next to the two books was an old file, with a circular logo containing a stylized eagle. He picked it up, closed his eyes and in a cloud of violet brimstone smoke, vanished from his home.

– – –
– – –
4:05pm, The house of Nicky Rossini

Wong parked the Plymouth Fury at the curb in front of a brownstone. Tony got out and said “This is it. C’mon” Wong climbed out of the car and looked at the building. It looked nice, as far as Manhattan real estate goes, but it didn’t seem to be the house that a reputed mobster who controlled everything south of 14th Street would live in. Tony walked up and took out a small ring of keys and proceeded to unlock four different locks on the door. Now THAT was certainly the door of a Manhattan mobster.

Tony opened the door and led Wong inside. Since his freak out at the supper club, Tony seemed a lot more personable and accepting of Wong. He led him into the house, and started to point out, to the best of his knowledge… where Mr. Rossini’s family saw the face in the window that scared his daughter… where the yelling sounded the loudest…

After Tony recounted everything he could remember… he and Wong continued searching the rest of the house… to see if they could come across anything else that could tell them something. It was clear that Rossini and his family had cleared out… cabinets and dressers were partly open, and the entire house was empty. Clearly they all left in a hurry. Wong pushed open the door to the master bedroom, all of the heavy curtains were drawn. It was unusually dark in the room, even for it being mid-afternoon. When they walked inside the master bedroom they heard the voice.

“You’re looking for the Rrrrrrossinis.” The voice was low & gravelly but also buttery smooth. the “R”s in “Rossini” rolled around like velvet marbles. “You will not find them here.”

Wong and Tony couldn’t see anyone at first. Tony’s anxiousness came back in force and his hand snapped to his waistband and he plucked his .38 snubnose and pointed it around the darkened room. “Tell your frien’ to put his piece away.” A puff of smoke passed through a thin sliver of light coming from between two heavy curtains from the far end of the room. “I’m not here to hurt you, I’m here to help you.”

Wong put an arm on Tony’s shoulder and he reluctantly lowered his gun… but didn’t put it away. “Who are you?”

“A Frien’.” they heard footsteps from the far end of the room. A man in a dark suit became visible to Wong and Tony. Wong thought his eyes were playing tricks on him… his eyes were still adjusting to the low-light of the room, and the features of this man could not easily be seen. All he could see was a suit, the white of his shirt, a tie, cufflinks… his face. He could see the man’s eyes. And his cigarette. And his mouth, smiling. All floating on a field of black.

“Relax, Wong.” He folded the lapel of his sports jacket, under which glinted a gold pin, which looked familiar to Wong. A circle with two lines arching right-and-left, and two running up-and-down. The same one on the temple debris in Tibet, and the same in Strange’s house. “You can trus’ me.”

Wong fixed him with his most untrusting look…but put all of his attention to him. “Can I.” It was a statement, not a question. The mystery man smiled, showing a wide, wolf-like grin, and started laughing. His laugh was sandpaper dipped in honey. They could now see, was not just floating eyeballs and teeth…. he was a man, wearing a black, or blue, mask.

He unbuttoned his jacket, and reached inside. Wong’s eyes narrowed…and Tony lifted his snub-nosed revolver again and trained it on the man. Wong didn’t stop him this time.

Mystery man’s hand slowly pulled out a silver cigarette case. He slowly opened it and took a cigarette out and put it in his mouth. “Relax, gentlemen…” he said, lighting the cigarette “I want to help jou find him.” He held out the case and offered a cigarette to Wong and Tony, raised an eyebrow and smiled.

– – –
– – –
4:10pm, High above Gardiner’s Bay, East of Long Island.

The cloud of violet brimstone faded and Strange found himself once again in this strange narrow file room. Packed tight full of secrets. He chuckled to himself. This odd place was definitely a handy and helpful stop of information in his last case… He took a deep breath in…. and saw the blue tether go from the paper in his pocket to a cardboard file-box on the other side of the room.

Strange’s smile widened. Cardboard boxes are less likely to be connected to an alarm. He walked over… and plucked out a small file stamped with the British Union Jack flag. He wanted to flip through it… but from his last time in this place, he knew it would just be a matter of time until…

A door opened behind him and Strange spun around… He once again came eye-to-eye with the same man with sandy hair. Last time, he had a gun trained on him. Now he was carrying a hot mug of coffee. No… not coffee, soup.

Strange gave him a winning grin. “Hello” He held out the fat file on Captain America and put it against the man’s chest, and let go. The man scrambled to grab the file before it hit the floor. “That was a big, BIG help…. and I want to thank you for letting me borrow it.”

The man said nothing as Strange gave the man a hearty, reassuring pat on the shoulder. He winced a bit as he smiled… “I hate to be a burden but… I’ve got to borrow something else…” he brightened “but don’t worry…” his smile got bigger “I’ll bring it right back!” Strange laughed as he vanished in a gentle puff of violet smoke.

– – –
– – –
5:03pm, Sanctum Sanctorum.

Strange had been chatting… against his will… with the stranded beatniks he met that afternoon. They were still lamenting that they weren’t able to get to Brooklyn in time for their gig. When the ’62 Plymouth Fury approached 177a Bleecker St. and pulled into the vacant space right in front, Strange immediately got in with his leather medicine bag. Wong looked over at his friend with an arched eyebrow “Umm.”

“If I had to hear one more thing about their stupid gig, I don’t know what I’d do to them.” He took a deep breath “Sorry. Just on edge. Listen… I’ve figured out ‘The Who’ or I should say, ‘The What.'”

Wong started the car and pulled out. “Where?”

Strange shook his head “I don’t know ‘The Where’ yet… or at least not exactly…”

Wong smacked his shoulder “WHERE ARE WE GOING…”

“Oh! Pell St.! To the Chen’s!”

Wong pulled out of the spot and threw the car in gear. Strange fixed his gloves as they progressed towards Chinatown. “First, Tony would…” Strange looked around the back seat… “Where is Tony?”

Wong waved his hand… “eh… uh, Long story. He’s OK. Working another angle…”

“Huh” Strange resumed. “All right, well, I was able to track the source of that blood.”

“From the bleeding laundry”

“The same. I wasn’t able to get any clear magic reading from it, but I was able to sense where more of it is located. but we can’t do anything about it until the bridges are open again… the source has been pulling at me from the direction of Brooklyn.”

Wong turned the corner “You said you know Who, or What, is behind it?”

“Well, the jury’s still out.  There are banshees… known to be seen as washer women, but they don’t taunt or simply “yell” like Tony is describing, they scream.  My money’s on a trickster-spirit or a type of warrior-demon; which are drawn to the type of souls that would work in organized crime.” Strange scratched his chin.   “Unfortunately that information came from books that are more than a hundred years old.  I was hoping to find some documentation that were a bit more recent.”

Wong looked over to Strange… “Did you raid the feds again?”

Strange nodded.  “Yes.”  He ignored Wong, who was shaking his head and shooting Strange the occasional disapproving glance.  “They HAVE the information, Wong. All I’m doing is reading it…”

“It’s going to bite you in the ass, Strange.”

“When it stops paying off, I’ll stop going there.” Strange said.  “It might not have shed any light on Tony’s case, but thanks to the feds… I know EXACTLY what’s happened with the Chen twins…”

– – –
– – –
5:40pm Chen’s Apartment, Chinatown

Strange held onto the iron fireplace tongs and swung little Bao Chen around by his foot, knocking his head on the edge of the crib. “IAAAIIIEEEEEE!!!!” He cried.

Wong held the iron horseshoe right in front of little Jia Chen, whose eyes were scrunched up in wrathful hatred…as she watched Strange beat her brother’s head against the wall. “Focáil leat!!!”

“Not until you give me ANSWERS!” Strange replied to Jia, as he swung Bao up over his head, and brought him crashing down onto the floor with a thud. The babies would have been difficult for Strange to even lift, with his arms as bad off as they are… Had they even been real babies. The minute Strange clamped the baby’s foot with the iron tongs… Bao was as light as anything.

Cac ar oineach” Jia growled… eyes flickering from Strange, to Wong, holding the iron horseshoe uncomfortably close to her…then back to Strange…

Strange shot a hard glare at the changeling girl in the crib…”Honor? you bring up honor?! Where’s the honor in kidnapping children?!” Strange swung her brother and his head smacked against the open door… “Show some honor yourself! At least change back to your true form!”

“BEGGIN YER MERCY! WE CANNAE DO THAT! WE’VE BEEN ORDERED…” little Bao screamed, in a clearly Irish-sounding voice. Strange lifted Bao up to eye level and looked at him. The baby-shaped creature tried to reach up to the metal tong clamped on his foot… whimpering… “Please… mercy… it hurts so much… Vishanti…”

SILENCE!!!” Jia screamed.

Strange said, not unsympathetic…. “So. You know who I am.”

Bao’s muscles slackened as it hung helplessly in the tongs, limp, and it just cried. It still looked exactly like a baby, Strange had to keep reminding himself that Bao and his sister were not human… the minute Strange and Wong broke out the iron from his medicine bag… the twins started screaming in Gaelic. Strange’s research had panned out. They were changelings. Bao cried and whimpered… “we know… we know… WISE Vishanti… JUST Vishanti… please… let us go…”

“Tell me… what I want to know…” Strange said.

Bao cried even harder…. “MERCIFUL VISHANTI…. (sob sob) I CANNOT…”

“WHERE ARE THE CHILDREN!?!?!?” Wong had never heard Strange so angry before… the room was silent, even Bao’s sobbing had softened…

“In the land… (sniff)” Bao said softly…

Do not…” Jia coldly warned…

“… the realm of Lynn of the Brook….” Bao said… and let out a long exhausted sigh… “They are safe… and alive…”

Strange laid the baby-shaped creature down next to his sister, who looked at him with venom and scorn; “Damnú ort” she spat. Bao just laid there and cried softly… but beginning to calm down, finally free of the painful iron.

“You should be happy… your brother may have saved both of your lives…” Strange held his hands together, and began to take deep breaths…

Díul mó bhad, Vishanti

Strange couldn’t help but smile widely… it was all he could to from breaking out in laughter…. “Wong…. you might want to back up a bit…” Wong moved out of the way and Strange’s eyes glowed red as he incanted “Í nafni Cyttorak, þú ert handtekinn” a pressure flew forth and suddenly the twins were bound in a red ring… holding them tight.

Feisigh do thoin fein!” Jia barked… Strange looked at her, and with a flick of his finger a smaller red band materialized around her head, covering her mouth.

The mood of the room calmed significantly. Wong stood up. Strange looked worried… “in the realm of Lynn of the Brook.”

“Brooklyn”. Wong said, stretching.

“The one place we can’t get to.” Strange kicked his leather medicine bag. Sounds of muffled, stifled laughter came from the bound Jia.

Wong picked the changeling-twins and unceremoniously dropped them into a duffel bag. “Maybe, maybe not.” he opened up his notebook…. “We’re going to meet some friends just off FDR Drive…”

– – –
– – –
6:20pm East River Park, just near the Williamsburg bridge.

As they drove from Chinatown to this rendezvous point, they passed the Manhattan bridge. All traffic leading to the bridge was backed up. A line of flashing cherry-topped police cars were clearly visible even from the FDR Drive. They continued along FDR Drive and soon approached the Williamsburg Bridge exit. It was clear that both bridges were completely closed. There were a string of police lights blockading the mouth of the Williamsburg bridge as well.

They took an off-ramp. The streetlights grew fewer in frequency. They ended up along a stretch of trees and grass, overlooking the East River. There was one other car, and about four people milling around the area. One figure stood at the edge of the land, looking at the water. Strange and Wong got out of the car and walked to the other car… it was a beat-up old Cadillac which looked vaguely familiar to Strange. “Oh no…”

“Hey… hey man! We’re about to be Brooklyn bound!” the scruffy beatnik from this morning ambled over to Stephen and Wong. His friend, the black man in the hat, was leaning against his car, smoking a cigarette. The scruffy beatnik brought a hand onto Stephen’s shoulders. “My man, Doctor Strange, making the scene.”

Strange looked at the beatnik with tired eyes. “yeah… Listen… please don’t call me doctor…”

The beatnik smiled, nodded “I’m in orbit. I dig.” He touched his nose conspiratorially. He smiled and walked back over to the car, and bummed a cigarette off his friend in the hat.

Strange and Wong walked past the beatniks, and found Tony. Their footsteps, the crunch of grass and leaves, caught Tony’s ear and he spun around. “AH… ah God. OK. It’s just you guys.” he put his hand on his heart. He was holding a shotgun in his free hand. Strange eyed it cautiously. Tony noticed Stephen’s glance and lowered the gun. “Ah, yeah.. uh, we thought it was best if we had a little extra firepower on our side…”

“We?” Strange and Wong said in unison.

Tony balked “Oh all right, *I* thought*. I mean, if we’re going to be marching into a hostile neighborhood, Biz said I should have something more than a magic wand in my hand. So EXCUSE ME, doctor”

Stephen sighed “Don’t call me…” he shook his head “Nevermind. Tony, I haven’t been able to tell you what I discovered… what makes you think we’re heading toward hostiles? And who is Biz?”

Tony smiled, gesturing to the man by the river’s edge, he was about to say something, but Wong interrupted him “That’s what I was going to tell you, Strange, come with me.”

They approached the river’s edge and a man in a sleek black (or blue?) suit faced away from them. It looked like he was doing a mime act…holding out his hands as if feeling around on a wall that wasn’t there. Wong called out to him “We’re here.”

The man spun around on his heel and smiled. His suit, his gloves, and his mask were so dark that he almost blended into the background, in the darkening dusk light. He had broad shoulders and strong arms. He reached out a hand to Stephen “So nice to make the acquaintance of the latest Vishanti. Hello, Stephen.”

Stephen shook the man’s hand and spoke in a low voice. “You’re the one who told a nervous Mob hopeful with a clear twitch… to carry a shotgun”

“I did not tell him to do anything. It was his idea. I might have laid the seeds of that idea that that things would get dangerous ahead.” He raised a finger “Which they may.” He turned his back to Strange and Wong and once again faced the river. “That’s what I do, jou see.” He pulled a case made of Italian leather from his coat pocket and opened the snaps. Inside was a wire frame containing a dozen or more keys… he pulled one of them out… “You can’t fool the devil unless you are quite good… at persuasion.” he put the key out in front of him, and turned it in thin air.

There was a click.

Strange said “Biz…” tricked the devil? “Bizarron.”

The man spun around again… “El Bizarrrron…” his voice was low and rumbling, but also smooth. “…at jour service my frien’.” Behind El Bizarron, his key-wallet was suspended in air, and around it slowly materialized… a door… then another door, then a door frame, and a large wooden gate… and high above the wooden doors, on an old carved sign with the words ‘GRAND STREET FERRY’.

El Bizarron knocked on the large wooden doors, and they slowly opened… a man in a top hat and clothes that looked… from the 1800’s emerged. “Eh? Whuzza…. Oh… it’s just you lot.” he pushed the doors open wide to reveal an old wooden ferry, the kind seen in old daguerreotypes. “Well, What’r’ya waiting for? C’mon aboard! Haven’t time to lose…”

– – –
– – –
6:40pm halfway across the East River.

The phantom ferry slowly moved across the waters of the East River. Tony and the two musicians stood in a half circle, near the beat-up Cadillac, sharing cigarettes and talking. Strange and Wong sat in the Plymouth Fury. Strange stared at the figure of El Bizarron, who stood at the bow of the boat. Wong said, “What is it, Strange…” not brusquely, but in a very matter-of-fact way that Wong often handled things. There was something wrong, and he was going to address it.

“I don’t like this.” said Strange.

“El Bizarron.” Strange nodded. “I don’t feel he poses any threat.”

“What else did he say, Wong? What’s his angle? why is he helping us?”

Wong shrugged his shoulders. “He didn’t say much else. He knew we were looking for Rossini, but again, so was he. I assumed he’s a thief, or perhaps someone with an axe to grind. But he seemed genuinely concerned about the safety of Rossini’s wife and daughter too…”

“I think he has something to do with their disappearance, Wong. His magic. When the ferry dock appeared… I could see the glow of the magic through the amulet. Like I did with the mind-wight that possessed you, and the Ghost of Jacob’s uncle. But when the dock fully materialized…. nothing. not a trace. And this ferry… nothing is showing up at all! Not a single trace. It’s as real as anything.”

Wong smiled, never having seen Strange like this before. “He’s got magic, Stephen.” He shook his head… “Do you see him as competition or something?”

Stephen instantly said “Of course not.” he said it maybe a little too fast.

“You’ve got nothing to worry about. You being ‘King of the Vishanti’ and all…”

“The Vishanti don’t have kings, Wong….” Strange said, a little affronted…

“Oh right, you’re just the SORCERER SUPREME… Look, Stephen, just talk to the guy. I think he’s Vishanti too” Wong put his hands back on the steering wheel.

“What?” he looked to the silhouette of El Bizarron. “That can’t be.”

“He had the symbol pinned to his jacket. Go talk to him and find out for sure.” There was a long pause… as Strange just stared out the windshield. “Strange… Go.” Stephen opened the door and took a step out. “Stephen.” Wong said. Strange leaned down and looked into the car. Wong pointed at him. “you’re the Sorcerer Supreme.” he pointed more intently and looked at Strange in the eye. “YOU are. Yeah?” Strange smiled, nodded once, and shut the door.

The cold November air was crisp, and the water of the East River was oddly still. The Williamsburg Bridge towered over them and was dark and black with no cars or lights illuminating it. Strange walked up to the puzzling figure who called himself El Bizarron. “Hello” the man said. he knew Strange was approaching.

“Hello. So. ‘El Bizarron The man who fooled the Devil.'”

“An who has the silver to prove it” Bizarron smiles and flicks his thumb and the ‘ting’ sound of a flipped coin wobbled in the air. Strange managed to catch it, El Bizarron chuckled. It was a silver coin with a vaguely Aztec design stamped onto it. “Hold onto it” El Bizarron smiled, “Jou might need it.”

Strange smiled and puts it in the breast pocket of his overcoat. “Thanks for arranging this ride.”

“This old thing?” El Bizarron said as he looked out on the East River and puffed away on his cigarette.

“From the 1800’s. Not a projection, not a construct… it’s real.” Strange tried to hide the fact he didn’t know how Bizarron conjured it.

“Not much to look at, but it’s a solid boat, si?” He brought his foot down and stomped on the wooden floorboards.

“A lot like another case I’m working on. A kidnapping case, victims replaced by changelings, but not exhibiting any magical signs or trace signatures. a lot like this ship.”

“Äther never leaves a sign.” he took a long drag on his cigarette. “Jou can see it when it’s happening… but once it’s done, it’s as real as anything. More real, in fact.”

Strange leaned on the railing and looked out to the East River. ‘Äther’ magic…’ he thought.

“Jou looked with jour eye yet?” El Bizarron leaned back with his elbows on the ferry railing.

Stephen held the amulet up to his eye… “Yeah.”

“You opened it?”

Stephen looked at him.

“Vishanti should be able to open the Eye of Aggamotto.” El Bizarron looked directly into Stephen’s eyes. The black (or blue?) balaclava (not a balaclava… his mask has a mouth-hole) framed his eyes… haunting. Unsettling. “Get on your feet, Stephen…” he said with a grumble in his voice…

Strange flinched, involuntarily “What?!”

In that moment, El Bizarron broke the intense stare and looked up. A smile spread on his face “Oh… Hey.”

“What?” Strange said, looking at the sky.

“Now we know why all the bridges are out.” He pointed a finger up to the bridge. Tony, the beatniks, Wong over in his car, and even the 1800’s ferryman, all seemed to notice the hot cherry of El Bizarron’s cigarette as it rose up to point at the bridge. All eyes traveled to the Williamsburg Bridge, which they were floating very close to… and sitting in the rafters underneath was an enormous hulking behemoth…

Strange softly said “A troll…” It was the size of a fire truck… it had arms the thickness of tree trunks… calmly sitting, reaching a hand inside of the car it was holding.

“It’s feeding.” El Bizarron said quietly “It won’t notice us.”

“We’ve got to get ready.” said Strange. El Bizarron walked over to Tony and murmured something into his ear. Strange walked over to the Plymouth Fury and got inside the passenger seat.

“Strange…What the HELL…”

“WONG. Listen. it won’t pay attention to us. We’re not on his bridge.”

“HIS bridge?!”

“LISTEN. When we get to the other side, you need to find a pay phone and call Jacob.”

– – –
– – –
7:10pm Parking lot on the Brooklyn side

Wong jogged back to the where the Plymouth Fury was parked. The top was put down… Tony was sitting in the backseat smoking a cigarette, and El Bizarron and Strange were pouring over a map, unfolded out on the hood of the car. Strange had drawn two red X’s on the map in pen and a few possible routes between them.

Wong caught his breath. “Something is definitely going on. Jacob said that for the last two nights they’ve heard screaming at night.”

Strange pointed at Tony Garonne and fixed him with a stern glare “Screaming, Tony. Screaming.”

Tony looked surprised. “What? Screaming?! Okay, so the kid hears screaming!? What do you want me to do about it? Sheesh.”

Strange turned, annoyed, back to his map. “I did another tracking spell on the blood sample, Wong. Since we’re closer, I was able to get a better fix.” he pointed at the first red X on the Brooklyn Map. “Kurtzburg Tailoring. On the third floor.”

Wong took a place on the right side of the car. Strange, El Bizarron and Wong looked at the map intently.

“Okay.” Strange assured “Here’s what we’re going to do. It won’t be easy….”

– – –
– – –

It was not easy.

They formulated a plan and departed the parking lot by the river. The closer they got to the Boerum Hill neighborhood where Kurtzburg Tailoring was located, the stranger things became. At stop lights, many pedestrians turned to look at their car. Slowly blinking. Strange tried looking at them with his amulet… and Bizarron just shook his head.

They heard the screaming the moment they took the exit off the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. The further they pressed on through the Boerum Hill neighborhood the louder it got. Tony trembled and quaked in the backseat. Wong focused his eyes on the road… Strange and El Bizarron’s attention rose to the sky. Wisps flew up and around… looping above the buildings just one block away. “Not yelling…” Strange yelled to the back seat.

“WHAT?!?” A panicked Tony Garonne squeaked

“Screaming, Mister Garonne. Not yelling.” Strange unbuckle his seat belt.

“WHAT ARE THEY?!?” Wong turned a corner and four of the most viscous, intense and evil women flew through the air, their hair and cloaks appearing like spiderwebs and torn fabric from ancient battlefields.

“Bean-Sidhe” El Bizarron said with a thin-lipped smile.

“WHAT?” Tony screamed as he cocked his shotgun and aimed it at the flying horrors.

“BANSHEE!” Strange pushed up with his legs and he flew straight up out of the car and into the air. He began to loop and fly around… dogfighting or playing tag as the banshees flew after him. The scream of four spectral women filled the air and reverberated and shook the buildings as they all flew past. They dove up, down, around, and looped like they were penguins or sea-lions swimming in the ocean.

While Strange kept the banshees occupied, El Bizarron and Tony leaped from the car. Young Jacob Kurtzburg was at the street-level door that led to the apartments above the shop, waving to the men to get inside. Wong sat in the car and waited. His usual calm demeanor wavered, he wiped a bead of sweat off his forehead. Jacob waved to Wong. He smiled and waved back, as they waited for then to El Bizarron and Tony to return to the street level.

They did not have to wait long. El Bizarron burst from the doorway carrying a ten-year-old girl and holding the hand of a lovely but terrified woman. Emerging right behind them was an older gentlemen, Wong could only assume was Rossini, who ran straight to the car… and Tony who sprung from the door… rolled, and aimed his shotgun at the door… a twisted bizarrely-shaped humanoid emerged from the doorway… opened it’s multi-hinged jaw and let out a rumbling bellow. Tony immediately fired his shotgun right at the creature’s face… who stumbled backwards…. annoyed. “GET IN!” Wong yelled.

The Rossini family huddled in the back seat of the Plymouth Fury… Tony jumped into the front passenger seat… and El Bizarron… somehow, was able to stand firmly on the back trunk of the car…. and not be flung off when Wong threw the car into gear and spun around, and proceeded to drive north on Third Avenue.

“STRANGE!” Wong yelled. A little red-and-tweed dot in the sky circled… followed by four blue wisps .. descended and flew in tandem just behind the Plymouth Fury. The sound of the banshee rattling the frame and glass of the car, more than the straining engine was. The Rossini family huddled together… as Tony fired upwards… and El Bizarron snapped his fingers… sending out purple slashes into the air with each snap… fighting back the banshees…. in order to give Strange a little breathing room.

The car sped down Atlantic Avenue… Strange slung off an illusion spell… Wong was flanked by two New York City police cars. The red flashing lights, somehow, helped Wong focus. The sound of the sirens, while noisy, helped drown out the scream of the banshees and bolstered Tony’s nerves and those of the Rossini family. Cars on the road quickly yielded and got out of their way. Block after block they neared their next stop… the Corner of Atlantic and Flatbush. “HOLD THEM!” Strange yelled. Wong sped down Flatbush.. turned on Dean St…. intending to circle the long, oddly shaped block. El Bizarron conjuring up something glowing, drawing the banshees in his direction… and Tony kept firing away… as Strange flew to the center of the dilapidated lot. The very same place they were last Friday night… Where he and Wong freed the soul of Jeremiah Kurtzburg and uprooted the mysterious iron chain, bolted to the earth. Sure enough, right where the chain was a week before… lay a bassinet, inside were two sleeping babies… Bao and Jia Chen. The moment Strange lifted the bassinet… from the ground grew a dozen humanoid shapes…. Strange could see it… a flickering yellow shimmer surrounded the creatures… and when they stood as fully formed orcs… the shimmer disappeared.

The orcs, each at eight feet in height, hard eyes and huge arms…. took a slow step toward Strange. He rose from the ground, and looked around for Wong. It was not difficult to spot him. The black Plymouth Fury barreling down Atlantic… the banshees swarmed around El Bizarron’s spell like moths… the occasional blast from Tony’s shotgun. Strange flew to the car and aimed his hand at the ball of light that El Bizarron was using to draw the banshee. “APAGE!” he yelled… and the spectral women flew away from the car, as if each of them were hit by a Louisville Slugger. Strange flew in… brought the bassinet down to the back seat… Nicky Rossini moving to the side a bit, allowing Strange to place the bassinet inside of their huddle. He looked at Mrs. Rossini and the little girl with a warm smile… and then gave a stern look right at Nicky Rossini. “Don’t let anything happen to them.” after which Strange took off.

“So that’s done…” Strange said as he saw the silver light of the banshees regroup and follow him in the sky… while the glowing eyes of the orcs that grew from the lot at Atlantic and Flatbush were running, beginning to catch up with Wong and his escort of spectral police cars, who were all speeding north up Flatbush. “Now comes the hard part…” as the party sped headlong to the Manhattan Bridge.

The troll’s bellow shook the air like the blast from a ship’s horn… everyone could see its silhouette, it blocked out the lights of the Manhattan skyline. It was at least two stories tall. It brought its huge arms… as thick as two tree trunks… crashing down on the pavement…. shaking the earth beneath it. Its roar… focused. El Bizarron smiled… and hopped from the trunk of Wong’s car. He ran over to a NYFD Fire Engine that was part of the blockade… and fired it up…. siren blaring…. and drove straight into the gut of the monster…. the troll was just strong enough to resist the pressure of the fire engine.. Until Strange fired a red concussive blast at the monster’s face, disorientating it. The troll howled in pain as El Bizarron gunned it… pushing the troll to the edge of the bridge. Strange breathed in and pushed out an enchantment of momentum, the firetruck glowing purple as it pushed the troll even further to the edge of the bridge. The troll grabbed firmly on the sides of the truck… as the troll, and the truck… slipped from the side of the bridge.. and fell into the East River…

There was no time to be shocked or to mourn their fallen ally… just as the squadron of orcs began to finally catch up with them… Wong slammed on the gas… and flew down the empty Manhattan Bridge. He just had to stay far enough ahead of the orcs… and Strange and Tony had to keep the swarming banshees at bay…. As they reached the other end of the bridge, they had forgotten about the OTHER side of the police blockade…

Wong’s heart beat in his chest. From high above Stephen saw the line of police cars… his heart sank…

The pavement started to rise from underneath Wong’s car. Strange could see the familiar yellow shimmer buckling and raising the pavement… forming into a large wedge…. Strange yelled “WONG!!!! DRIVE!!!” Wong put the pedal to the metal… and the Plymouth Fury’s nose was rising above the police blockade… and the car flew… over the blockade… leaving a concrete ramp where there wasn’t one before.

Over all of the chaos and the scream of four banshees ringing in his ears…. Strange heard the unearthly metallic ting of the devil’s silver, and the robust gravelly laugh of El Bizarron echoing in the air… and he smiled.

Wong and the phantom police escort blazed a trail up Manhattan having kept enough distance between him and the oncoming orcish horde… when they passed Delancey Street they heard a familiar bellow… another troll.. presumably the one from the Williamsburg Bridge… thundered down the road and joined the party… All Wong and Strange could do was stay focused and speed north on the Bowery… to Greenwich Village… to 177a Bleecker Street.

– – –
– – –
10:40pm, Sanctum Sanctorum, interior.

Wong was able to bring the Fury to a reasonable-enough stop… Wong and Tony rushed the Rossini family and the Chen twins, crying in their bassinet… into the Sanctum Sanctorum. Tony, pumped full of adrenaline, stood and leveled his shotgun to cover them from the oncoming horde who were one block away and closing quickly. Once the inside, Strange descended from the sky and grabbed Tony by the collar and flew in the doors. Wong slammed them shut… only to feel the door shake…

BOOM!

Wong threw himself against the door. “STRANGE!”

BOOM!

The Rossinis had holed up in the office. Mrs. Rossini was holding the Chen twins in her arms… as their daughter was holding tight to her daddy. Tony stood at the office doorway, shotgun leveled at the door. Strange carried a large book, with difficulty, from the office to the hallway where Wong was struggling to keep the door closed from the troll banging on the other side…. “I’m on it, Wong…” He began to flip the pages…

BOOM

Wong chuckled. “You know Strange… when you convinced me to move in here…you said all I’d have to do is the…”

BOOM

“…heavy lifting and groceries…” Wong continued…grunting…

BOOM

“And your main job would be… and I quote”

BOOM

Wong pushed all of his weight against the heavy wooden door… “To make sure we’re not eaten by an army of goblins…”

BOOM

Stephen looked up from the enormous tome… “Those aren’t goblins, it’s a troll…”

BOOM

Wong almost flew from the door, but regained his footing and pressed back against the door of the house on 177A Bleecker St. He glared at Strange… and continued quoting his friend’s earlier words “Besides, Wong… The house is hidden! No one would be able to bother you…”

BOOM

Strange grimaced and finally found the passage he was looking for. he put a gloved finger on the passage. “I see your point, Wong… This is an… unusual situation. Don’t worry, I’ll get it sorted.”

BOOM

Wong had all his energy and weight into keeping the door from flying off it’s hinges. “Don’t make me regret moving out of Chinatown, Strange.”

Strange put the book on a chair, and put his hand on the door. “Signaveris hoc Porta! Custodite omen periculo!” the room was filled with a Blinding LIGHT!

Knock.

Wong moved away from the door…

knock. knock…

The knocks got softer until they faded from being audible at all.

“That will slow them. They are still trying to break in… this just increased the time-barrier around the house.” Strange raised an eyebrow. “Now we just have to figure out what they want.”

Wong added “Other than our dead bodies…”

The next several moments were a little less tense. Wong and Strange both went in to check on the Rossini family, and the baby twins. Mrs. Rossini seemed fine, and helped Wong check on the babies.

Nicky Rossini walked over to Tony. “You! You, you done good, kid! No matter what Vinnie and Pino said, I knew you were right to keep around.” he walked over to Tony and said more quietly “We get out of this house alive… and I will take care of you…” he put his hand on the back of Tony’s neck and looked him in the eye with a tough, but appreciative, look, and nodded. “…you’ll be well taken care of.”

Stephen went to the little girl… who’s name was Alcina… he cleaned up a cut on her forehead and made her smile… Her father helped Strange put a bandage on her forehead… she hugged Strange. “You’re going to protect us?”

Strange returned the hug… “I will.”

Nicky Rossini patted Strange on the shoulder and said with a smile “That’s right sweetie… daddy’s got the best possible people on the job!” Strange stood up and looked at Rossini, who looked at him back, cheerfully. “I gotta say… I seen a lotta stuff on newsreels when I was a kid… Flying fire-men, Captain America… but I never… never imagined… this stuff was really REAL…” his smile got wider and he put his arm around Strange “And I certainly never would imagine that the crazy doctor from all the papers last year…” he poked a finger on Strange’s chest “turned out to be the magic-man with the plan!”

“I’m not a doctor anymore” He turned and walked to the kitchen… to wash his hands off… Rossini followed him. They were out of earshot of his wife and family now.

“Eey, eye… easy… I’m just sayin’, I’m surprised, is all! and very impressed! I mean, we’re practically neighbors, for crissake…Look. I just wanna make myself clear…You did me a big BIG solid, buddy. I can take care of you.” Nicky said. Strange looked at him and raised his eyebrow. “You did a favor for me… let me do a favor for you. Let me take care of you.”

“Mr. Rossini, now that we’re out of the earshot of your daughter, let me make myself clear. I did not risk my life or that of my friends to get in your good graces, or win a favor. Neither did Tony, by the way. HE did it because he was forced to, and YOU frighten him.” Strange turned off the faucet and wiped his hands clean. “We did it. because it’s the right thing to do.” He gathered up some more towels and took a few steps closer to Nicky… “It’s I…. who takes care of YOU…and everyone…. EVERYONE… on this planet. Have I made myself clear?”

Nicky Rossini didn’t say anything as Strange walked passed him and back to the office. His mind was operating in high-gear. he hadn’t thought like this since his days as a surgeon… assessing the magic.. now that he had seen it, how it worked.. that yellow shimmer was familiar.. he couldn’t place it… He brought the towels to Mrs. Rossini and Alcina and handed two to Wong, who swaddled the babies, who had stopped crying. Alcina tugged on Strange’s coat and he knelt down to her level. “Thank you for saving us, Mr. Strange.”

“You are welcome Alcina…”

“Will this happen next Halloween, too?”

Strange looked puzzled. “Halloween?” he looked to Tony, and then to Mrs. Rossini. “Is that when this started?” Tony shrugged his shoulders, Mrs. Rossini and Alcina nodded their heads fervently… These events had happened in places that Strange and Wong had been active, since they returned to New York… on Halloween. He knew where he had seen that shimmering magic before.

– – –
– – –
10:40pm, outside, at 177a Bleecker St.

Strange walked outside the Sanctum Sanctorum, followed by Wong, who stayed a few steps back. The usually-invisible magic shield that stuck to the outer edge of the house was no longer invisible… nor did it conform to the edge of the house. It was now an orange glass-like curved wall which had pushed the aggressive army 20 feet from the door of Strange’s house.

On the other side of the invisible border, cars were pushed aside, some onto the street… streetlights flickered… And even more angry creatures had gathered, seemingly out from nowhere. Two titanic trolls towered at either side of the door. Three more stood behind them… standing 18 feet above dozens (hundreds?) of humanoid figures wearing clothes and armor that appeared to be patchwork & hodgepodge from four distinctly different periods of history. They all had gray and brown leathery skin… Thistle-like hair and yellow eyes. High above them all, all bloody-rags-and-hair circled no less than twenty banshees. Their cry reduced from echoing shriek to a low buzz the moment Strange opened the door and stepped outside… All eyes…. hundreds of old ancient eyes… looked at Strange. He cleared his throat. “My name is Stephen Strange, I am Vishanti. You have threatened, kidnapped and terrorized my neighbors. And it stops now.”

He walked right up to the barrier… the orcs, gnomes and trolls started to get antsy… the atmosphere went from one of tense calm to that of loud, barking madness… they began beating their chests or the ground, or the barrier… the closest ones breathing so heavily and panting that their mucus and spittle landed on the magical-barrier that separated the humans from the monsters. Banshees began hurling themselves down at Strange… hitting and bouncing off the barrier as their screams once again pierced the air. Though the barrier held still, the sudden movement caused Strange to react by recoiling slightly, he took a few steps back, Wong caught him before he fell to the ground…

In his mind, he pictured hard eyes, a low voice. “Get on your feet, Stephen…”

Strange steadied his footing, and stood once again at edge of the magic barrier. The amulet, the Eye of Aggamotto, began to glow like the sun. The coffee-bean shape in the center of it had opened up revealing, what looked, to Wong, to be an actual human eye.

Strange’s calmly said “Be quiet” but those words drowned out the roars of the trolls, the cry of the orc army and the screams of the banshees gathered above. The simple two words of “Be quiet” shook Wong, he felt it in his bones and in the ground through the soles of his feet. Light and an almost visible wave of sound emanated down the street… the vibrating shimmer passing through every banshee, orc, troll… most of them disappearing. DISAPPEARING! The eye wiped clean away the illusion, fabrication and duplication spells that had been conjured in the last few moments… leaving the primary ones responsible.

Strange opened his eyes… having felt the heat from his amulet and the booming sound of his own voice… the amulet he inherited from his teacher… it was alive. The eye remained open… and he saw the remaining creatures vanish.. fading away… until all that was left was a single troll, a story and a half tall… One banshee, mouth closed… floating above a wary orc, who eyed Strange. Two tiny gnomes, flanking a small, curious looking man… who stood about four feet tall, had skin that looked, at the same time, both rough like treebark and smooth as the surface of a Riverstone… a bald head… A grey, brown and green suit, and a cane. He opened his mouth “The Vishanti speaks… the Faerie folk will listen.”

The small man, flanked by his unusual compatriots, walked to the edge of the barrier… and stood directly before Strange and Wong. The small man’s eyes glittered under his wrinkled furrowed brow. He spoke. his voice was unusually soft. “The Knave and his brethren….”

“His Family…” Strange corrected. “Safe. Under my protection.”

The banshee scoffed and looked away… but did not speak or raise her volume. The small man blinked once, and asked “and the wee ones…”

“Under my MOST EMPHATIC protection…” The small man nodded. “Understand… This city… this realm… This planet… and all of my neighbors… you MUST understand, are under MY Protection.”

“Aye… Aye… I know. As it should be.” The small man tapped his cane once on the ground, the cars, benches, plants… all moved and re-formed in the spots they were before this whole mess happened. The cracks in the broken glass of nearby cars shrunk until solid panes remained. Bent and crushed metal popped and creaked back into their original shape. As this happened… a very distinct yellow shimmer was present around everything. As everything mended itself and moved to find it’s original place, there was one stray flowerpot that was gently tapping, bouncing on Strange’s barrier… The small man tapped at the barrier with his cane. “You can lower this now, boyo. You’re safe from me. I swear it.” He picked up the flower pot “Peace cannae come back until this little one gets home, too…” Strange steps back and exhales slowly… the orange barrier thinning, receding, and once again conforming around the house…before fading from sight. The flower pot hovered and bobbed until floating back on the next-door neighbor’s windowsill.

The small man looked up to Stephen Strange and let out an enormous sigh “It is not easy to get word to you…Vishanti.” He tapped the ground with his cane, and a ten foot circle of sidewalk and pavement surrounding The small man and Strange rose silently straight up into the air.

“HEY!” Wong cried. Stephen looked down, behind him. The street, Wong, and the other Faerie Folk all shrank in size as Stephen and the small man rose higher in the sky on the floating stone circle… no, not floating… a tremendously tall stone pillar. When the lights of the tallest Manhattan skyscrapers were at their eye-level, it finally stopped rising.

“Privacy.” the small man said. Two smaller stones rose up… and descended on the surface. The odd little man sat down with a sigh and then gestured Strange to do the same. The small man pulled out a pipe and started to pack it. Moments went by as no one said a thing, the cold night air of New York gently blew between the men. The man puffed away until finally saying. “Ye’ve figured out who we are. Ye figured out what we were doin. Yer probably wondering why it is we did these things.” he puffed on his pipe. A smell both pleasant and pungent wafted to Strange’s nostrils. “I wanted to talk to ye.”

“You… wanted to TALK to me. I can be found by ANYONE who needs me…”

“Even if I DID need ye, boyo…” he shook his head. “I could’nae come to you.”

“So you decided that kidnapping and murder were suitable options to get my attention…”

“We did NOT…. I did NOT order… any harm to come to the knave, his family, or the poor wee ones!” The small man raised his voice and wiped his brow with a handkerchief. “…Faerie folk canna just knock on the door of a Vishanti! Your teacher saw to that.” Strange shook his head, genuinely puzzled. The small man continued “you learned from Yan… The Mongol? And you do not know?”

Strange put his hands on his knees. “I did learn from… Yan” He had never heard his master referred to by name… “and I’ve read of your people. I was not AWARE of any…”

He leaned back, giving Strange a stern eye. “He didn’t tell ye that HE invaded OUR land… and TOOK from MY FATHER the…” The small man stopped his yelling… he took a few breaths… “My name…” he paused for effect… “…is Brye Goodfellow. Son of Robin. The World of Man knew of my father. He appears in a number of your stories.”

Strange leaned forward, with raised eyebrows. “Robin Goodfellow…” Strange knew the name… and the aliases… “some considered him The Devil…” Strange looked at Brye with a curious expression “and Puck…”

Brye nodded. “Aye. Shakes-Spear knew him. My father, well-feared by some, well-liked by others…by all accounts very powerful and influential. King of Faerie. not what some would call the devil…”

“I beg to differ…” Strange intertwined the fingers of his right hand with that of his left. “I’ve read accounts that your father was responsible for the tricking, kidnapping and converting of thousands of humans… And he made moves against our realm.”

Brye looked shamed. “War… can drive one to such ends…”

Strange continued “There aren’t any documents detailing of what happened after that…”

“I suspect the reason being, when the Vishanti win a war, there’s no one to write books, tales and songs about them.” Brye puffed on his pipe. “Your teacher ended the build up to war by taking my father’s hand. He banished the Faerie Folk to remain in the dark shadows, to never step into the light. Most fled to Faerie… there were some who took to living under bridges, caves, the nooks and crannies of the world, in hopes that we would someday be allowed back.”

“So you and your army came from the shadows. For revenge against the World of Man?” Stephen asked, Brye looking down at his pipe… not looking Stephen in the eye.

“No…. no. That was not… I JUST…. wanted to TALK to you, boyo.” He knocked out the cinders in his pipe and put it back in his coat pocket. He clasped his hands and leaned forward on his stone stool. “Some time ago… months ago, for the first time in centuries, I felt the presence of my father. Somewhere. It tugged at me from somewhere, out in the world. Memories came flooding to me. He had been lost for so long. And once again, after so long, I knew something real from him still existed in the world. I tried to trace it… from the far mountains of the east… through the air… over water and at speeds much faster than horse and carriage… and finally to New Amsterdam…”

“It’s called New York now.” Strange corrected… according to what Brye was saying… the moment Baron Mordo killed his teacher, and destroyed the temple in Tibet… the day Stephen became the Sorcerer Supreme… the spell of the Sanctum Sanctorum no longer protected the items that fell from the sky into Wong’s village. The week they spent gathering the artifacts, packing them, shipping them to New York… they were unshielded. Unprotected. They were on Faerie’s radar… and quite possibly the radar of any other magically tuned person who was looking…

“New… York… of course. when it reached here… on Samhain…your… ‘All Hallows Eve…’ It was suddenly closed off to me. My father.” Brye looked to Strange. “I did not want revenge, Strange. I wanted your attention.”

“You targeted the places I was most active since I returned to New York… and preyed on the innocent…”

“I…” He paused. “I regret. The anguish your neighbors had to go through. Even the Knave and his family. But I had no other way of tracking you down! You were invisible to us at all times EXCEPT when you came to your neighbor’s aide. Then you shone like a beacon.”

Brye looked away from Strange’s eyes. “Aye… I ordered the replacement of the twin babes… and sent my Bean-sidhes sisters to put fear into the little warlord around your corner. But Stephen… realize” his sudden use of his first name made Strange take notice. “I ordered… that no deaths were to be dealt.”

“You wanted to talk to me…” Strange brought his hands out in a broad gesture, then let them fall in his lap. “And here we are now, talking. Did you just want to tell me this story?”

Brye looked over the edge of the stone pillar. About 200 feet below, a banshee circled…but did not rise any higher. She respected her King’s privacy. Brye swallowed and lowered his head. “I wanted to ask you… Beseech you… humbly… to return my father’s hand.”

“My teacher took your father’s hand because he was waging war on this world… actions similar to what you ordered here.”

He held onto his cane… and twisted it in his hands….”Faerie was a different place when my father ruled it, Strange. It was dangerous. Our neighbors were dangerous. Returning his hand to me, now, will not empower us or encourage us to do battle…”

“Why do you want it back so badly?”

“It is real…” Brye’s eyes started to wet with tears. “Things work differently in our world, Strange. When someone you care for is gone, you can take comfort in your memories of them. For us, if there is nothing real remaining of them… it feels as if they never existed…”

“What makes you think I have it? My teacher’s home was destroyed. I might not have salvaged everything”

“DON’T… TOY with me Strange!” He pleaded. Holding back his emotion. “I FELT it! I felt it every step of the your journey, when it wasn’t hidden behind your…” he waved his hands, trying to find the word… “shield that slows the seasons.” His eyes were streaming, and his voice wavered when he said. “Even now, you have it in your coat pocket. You’ve had it this whole time. But I had resisted it’s pull. And I have answered your questions…”

A full minute passed… “I am not asking for forgiveness for what my father did. I am not my father. And my people, are a good people, deep down. Despite what our past kings have done. We have been banished to the dark corners of the world for too long… Please…”

Strange thought long and hard about this. He was ALL TOO familiar with the bind that children find themselves in after they’ve grown up under the influence of a larger-than-life… and frightening father figure. His erstwhile medical career.. and his soiled reputation was his father’s legacy. But at the same time his father was a man who taught him resiliency… ‘Get on your feet, Stephen…’ Strange was given a second chance, but there were conditions he had to agree to.

Strange reached inside his coat and took out an old, thin walnut box. Upon seeing it Brye hunched on his stone stool and his shoulders lurched as he silently sobbed. “Your father’s hand would allow them back into this world, into the light?” Brye looked nervous, but nodded… “Brye Goodfellow. If I give this back to you… it won’t be without strings. There will be conditions.”

“Name them.”

Strange raised one finger. “First. I protect this realm. If there is any talk of war… of crime… of kidnapping… or anything that troubles the peace and well being of my neighbors in this realm…”

Brye looked at Stephen with wide, but earnest eyes. “I swear… upon my entire being, the World of Faerie will ne’er again act in aggression or menace against the World of Man.”

Strange raised another finger. “If you or your people discover of any plots, threats or designs that may bring pain or ruin to this world… “

Brye stood from his stone stool. “We will do so. Consider the Faerie folk at your disposal…”

Stephen pulled back the walnut case, Brye’s eyes and mouth shot open in sudden panic … “Disposal… No, Brye…” Brye’s face fell, a note of worry in his eyes “That’s not what I mean…” Brye blinked.

“Faerie and Mankind have existed side-by-side for a long, LONG time on this plane… If what you said is true, and the World of Faerie no longer has aggression against the World of Man… Brye, I want to consider you, and the World of Faerie as a neighbor.”

Strange stood up and looked at the tiny King. “Brye, If you accept these terms, I may turn to you when I need you. But understand, that it’s a two-way street. If you ever need me… you will be able to reach me, and I will help you.” Brye stood up straight… all four feet of him. and held out his hand to Strange. Not to take the walnut case that held his father’s hand that he treasured so, but to shake Strange’s hand.

“No Man, Vishanti or otherwise, has extended such a boon to my kind.” Brye Goodfellow took Strange’s crippled, gloved hand inside his own four-fingered grasp. We have an accord, Stephen Strange.” The two shook on it… the first truce between the World of Man and the World of Faerie on a stone pillar a thousand feet above Greenwich Village.

– – – End issue three.

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6 Comments + Add Comment

  • I am a sucker for anything magical, mystical, fairie, whatever you want to call it. Keep it up!

    • ((I actually remembered to use the “reply” function! I’m in this century!”))

      Thank you Russell! I’m really glad you liked it! I’m a big fan of it too. You will see a lot more of Brye and the other Fairy Folk in future issues.

  • That was really great, from the opening in I was hooked and enjoyed the hell out of this. It was dense but packed with tons of fantastic elements, awesome humor, and a great conclusion I hope will be touched upon further down the line. The one complaint I had was with the denouement… I found it weird you introduced multitudes of enemies only to vanish them moments later… I think it would of been more effective to have raised the stakes a bit more before having them enter the Sanatorium then after.

    Also, I liked the mention of Cyttorak (the guy who gave Juggernaut his power, correct?) and the inclusion of El Blizzaron… Why did you choose to add him?

    • Part of why the Denouement happened the way it did… there are a few reasons
      – The simplest of which is that I needed to end the story :) I’m very glad to hear that it was entertaining despite how dense it was… but I was reaching deadline and I also have a day-job…. heh.
      – But in story, if need be, With Strange having opened the Eye of Aggamotto, it has qualities which can (depending on what type of spell is cast) can reverse or dispel it.
      – – – but whether the army vanished back to Faerie by Strange’s doing or by Brye’s command, that’s left to be seen. Brye didn’t want to belabor the point… he wanted to talk to Strange, and it looked like he was finally going to get that, so it might have been HIM who sent the army back home.

      Re: Cyttorak: not the last time we’ll hear that name mentioned 😀

      Re: El Bizarron- He’s a new character I have in mind. based on an Cuban (or mexican, not sure) Myth of a man who fooled the Devil and stole his silver. He’ll play a part in Strange Tales, for sure. (might pop into other stories too… who knows…)

  • One of the Inspirations for El Bizarron: Danger: Diabolik!