Home | Forum | Mailing List | Repository | Links | Gallery
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11


Written by Ephiginia
Last updated: 01/02/2007 02:01:11 AM

Chapter 4

It was late evening, foggy and dark, and in a small alley which stunk of rot and decay a small child was crying.

He was dirty and ragged, his wild hair blackened with soot. The clothes he wore were far too scant for the cold weather, and the shoes he had were ripped into uselessness. He wasn't crying because he was afraid, or because he couldn't find his mother. He didn't wail or sob. The tears ran down his cheeks as silent waterfalls, unheralded by anything but a faint moan barely audible to even himself.

He was desperately hungry, and more than that, there was a bleeding gash in his leg where he had run past something sharp in his blind flurry. That morning, he had attempted to steal some bread in the Market, but the merchant had seen him and tried to catch him. Remy was faster, of course, able to slip through crowds much easier than the sluggish man, but he had lost the bread in his escape. He had hid in the alley, falling to sleep almost immediately. But now he had woken up, and both the hunger pangs and the ugly gash had waited for his waking.

Hurt or not, he was going to have to find something to eat. He hadn't for quite some time now, and his stomach felt like someone was twisting it with a wrench. He got up, and found he was able to hobble around so long as he didn't do it too quickly. It would be dangerous trying to steal something, but the alternative was begging, and already the little child had enough pride that he wouldn't resort to that.

He tottered down the alley and on to the street, looking around him for any sign of danger. At this time there wouldn't be anything in the Market, but tourists were never careful about their wallets and purses, no matter how many times they were warned to be- especially when they were drunk, which was the majority of the time. The touriste was drawn to the Vieux Carre like a coondog to a chase, something Remy had already learned to use for his own advantage. He clenched his teeth, looking for a crowd he could slip in and out of, finding one almost instantly.

They stank of beer and seafood, and were too loud and intoxicated to notice the boy slithering by them. He spotted a rather chubby wallet poking out of the back pocket of a man's jeans, and decided it was what he needed. The man wasn't too tall, and certainly no more sober than any of the others: a perfect victim for Remy, who wasn't too tall himself, yet. He reached out and slowly started pulling at it, gradually enough that it wouldn't be noticeable to the owner, but just quick enough that he wouldn't sense someone behind him, if that was possible. The man kept swaying, which annoyed the boy to no end, but he didn't notice when the wallet finally popped out and Remy was off with it, weaving his way back out of the crowd and back to where he came from, holding his prize tight so that no one would see it.

He didn't look down at the wallet to see what was inside it until he had made his way completely back to where he had fallen asleep before. He sat down heavily and stretched out his hurting leg, wincing a bit. The wallet had plenty of cash, he was pleased to see, and credit cards, which he could trade with older street kids for more cash. He grinned weakly to himself, a grin which quickly faded away as the pain from the gash, dulled with the excitement of the moment, started again.

Essex nodded to himself, allowing a very faint smile to cross his metallic features. He felt, in an almost human way, proud. His son had learned to survive alone in the harsh environment his father had placed him in, with nothing but his seven year's worth of wit and an occasional helping hand from Essex when absolutely necessary. Remy would be a perfect representative for mutantkind, as his father had planned: strong and independent, and powerful. The creature which had transformed him had told him that only the strong would survive; Nathaniel Essex's son was going to be among the survivors.

"Not a bad day's work," Louis said, nodding his head. "'Specially for some lil' kid." He held Remy's loot up for the others to see.

One of them smirked. "Almost as good as you, Lou!"

Lou snorted indignantly and patted Remy's shoulder with a massive gloved hand. "Not much longer, 'n you'll be joinin' up wit' us. Make some serious money den."

Remy said nothing, but his proud grin said enough. Louis was a huge Creole man from Metairie, and though the boy knew Lou wouldn't hurt a kid, his presence was still intimidating. But the thought of working with him was something exciting. Big Lou was known all around the Big Easy for his bootleg business, and was only slightly less famous for his uncanny ability to get himself and anyone else out of any kind of trouble. Which was how Remy had met him- a gang of street kids had been hounding him down some time ago when the giant had stepped out of a warehouse and scared them all away, except for Remy, whom Louis had given some hot chocolate.

Big Lou was a likeable criminal. He didn't bother the natives of New Orleans, he was the first to help an old lady cross the street, and he sucked up to the cops like nobody's business. He looked dumb and seemed dumb, and could make any joke, no matter how bad, seem funny. Remy liked him.

"You got a place t'stay tonight?" Louis asked him. Remy shook his head. "Where ya been?"

"An alley, sir," Remy told him, eyes downcast.

Big Lou wrinkled his nose a bit, and then grabbed the boy up and swung him up onto his enormous back, careful not to bump Remy's bandaged wound too hard. "You stayin' wit' me, den," he said. "Got yer money?"

Remy grinned and waved the bills in front of Lou's face, holding onto his bull-like neck with one arm. "Good. You won't be needin' it tonight. I'm gonna feed you proper ovah my place. So you jus' keep dat in a safe place, right?"

Remy shrugged, not really knowing what exactly to do with the money. His pockets had holes big enough for bills to fall through. Finally, Louis took the money and stashed it in his own pocket. "You remember where we put it, boy, or I'll be puttin' dese pants in de wash wit' all ya wealth still in 'em." And they were off.

Big Lou's place was no mansion. A rundown camelback was what he called home, one of two houses, his on top of the other. His neighbors were all members of the same feisty Italian family, and greeted him warmly as he walked up with Remy on his back. "Hey! Lou!" one of them yelled, a young man with a huge black eye. "You recruiting kids now, eh?"

"Remy here's an old friend of mine from the Quarter," said Louis, turning his head just enough so the boy could see his wink. The other man laughed and wandered off, staggering a bit like he was drunk. "That's Mairo. If he ain't drunk, he's stoned. Doubt he'd ever hurt'cha, but you just be stayin' 'way from him, hear me? Get's himself in more trouble just bein' stupid den any gangster dis side o' de River."

"He be in a gang?" Remy whispered.

"Nah. Too weak to fight. But I hears he got it in wit' de Assassins Guild. Dey say his brother joined up, an' now de whole family's been hangin' wit' dem no-good murderers, rattin' out on t'ieves' plans. So dey say."

Remy shuddered a bit at the mention of the Guilds. Every native of the city knew about those societies, the Assassins and Thieves, and they respected them. The Guilds weren't to be trifled with. They controlled much of the city, had most of the wealth, and didn't take kindly to disrespect. Remy himself had more than deference for the Thieves- they were the best, and he admired them. They weren't just pickpockets like him. They stole big things, important things, like jewels and costly artwork.

But everyone, including Remy, had an instinctive fear of the Assassins, who lived to kill, and did it expertly. He gave one last frightened glance toward the direction Mairo had gone before Lou told him to watch his head, and they walked through Louis' doorway.

Mardi Gras drew more tourists to New Orleans than any other season or event all year. The natives didn't mind; rather, they were quite happy with the money they were making in their shops and restaurants and with their music. Anyone who knew how to play an instrument went down to the corner of their street and played something, sure to get some money tossed into their hat. The never-sleeping Vieux Carre was even more bright and noisy than normal, so that even in the swarthy corners on the far side of the Garden District echoed the hullabaloo of the great party.

Remy walked among the crowd unnoticed. Anyone who might have thought it strange a little 7-year-old boy was wandering about Bourbon Street on a late Mardi Gras night gave no second thought to it, their thoughts fogged with liquor.

He'd become an expert pickpocket by now, with a little help from Big Lou and a lot more experience. He'd lived with his gigantic friend, who had asked nothing in return for the food and shelter he provided. All in all, Remy had decided he'd finally stumbled into the good life. He had stolen for himself quite a store of cash, handing the credit cards over to Lou, who had known what to do with them. He hadn't had to worry where his next meal was coming from, and the rags he had worn had been replaced with cleaner clothes which fit him better.

But now Lou was gone.

Mairo had come one evening, a month or so after Big Lou had taken Remy in. The Italian had been high on something, and he had gotten violent enough that Louis had been forced to knock him down, unconscious, before someone got hurt. Nothing had come of it for quite some time- Mairo woke up eventually and tottered out, snarling something under his breath, and they hadn't heard from him for weeks.

Then one day Remy had come home from wandering around Metaire and found Lou dead. He'd screamed for help, not knowing what to do, and some of the neighbors had run over, called the police, and taken Remy away. No one knew how the murder had been committed. There was no trace of an entrance wound, no poison, no strangling marks, nothing.

"Musta messed with the Assassins," someone had said, shaking her head sadly. "Murderers..."

They sent Remy to an orphanage, having no idea who his real parents were. The people there were nice, cheerful, and loving. Within a week Remy was franticly trying to escape, smothered by their unwelcome affection. He wanted desperately to find whoever had killed Lou. He didn't know what he would do then- he was too little to kill anyone, too small to be any real danger. But he wanted to at least see the face of Lou's killer, to memorize it, to remember it for a later time when there was something he could do.

Until then, he lived on the street. Flight from the orphanage hadn't been too hard. Now he was back to sleeping in an ally, living off of the street. He wasn't entirely alone- there were other street kids like him, and they bonded the best they could. But for the most part, he stayed solitary. Tonight was like any other night, need driving him to steal from innocent people trying to forget their lives and just have fun for one Big Easy night.

A wallet caught his sight, a nice one of tooled black leather tucked into a man's back pocket. Even if it didn't have any money, Remy could pawn it off to one of Lou's old buddies, who had a soft spot for Louis' little friend. He started forward, inching his way through the crowd, being jostled out of his way several times by the swagger of the throng. He reached out, standing on his toes to reach the tall man's pocket, and constantly looking around him to make sure no one was watching. He tugged gently, drawing the wallet farther and farther into the open air.

The wallet fell out lightly at last, into Remy's eager fingers. He grabbed the wallet and...

Instantly, a long-fingered hand wrapped itself around Remy's arm and, before the boy could yell his surprise, the man snatched his wallet away, shoved it back into his pocket, and led Remy off out of the crowd and into a shadowy alley, nearly lifting the child up in the air so forceful he was.

Caught entirely off guard, Remy could do nothing but stumble along, trying not to fall. When he found himself in the alley, he shivered in fear, praying to child's angels the man wasn't going to do anything terrible to him.

The man regarded him with heavy brows, and for a moment Remy thought the man actually looked quite kind After looking the boy up and down with glittering hazel eyes, the man squatted down to Remy's height, and looked him straight in the face. "You must never draw a wallet out of a back pocket at an angle," he said, in a distinctly French accent. "It's far to easy to feel. Draw it up straight, very lightly. Let it curve out."

Remy blinked.

"Let's see you try it." The man turned around, and waited expectantly. It was the perfect opportunity for Remy to run. But the boy sure for shooting wasn't going to try running. He was positive the man could catch him.

He stood on his tiptoes again, and tried bringing the wallet out lighter, and with less angle. "Better," said the man. "You'll need to get taller first, I think." And he smiled. "How old are you?"

"...seven?... sir," Remy said. He wasn't altogether sure how old he was. One of Louis's tarrot-reading friends had told him he was seven, and it seemed as good a guess as any other.

"Seven... you've years ahead to grow." The man's smile deepened. "I'm Jean-Luc," he said, offering a hand.

"I'm Remy," the boy said, shaking the man's hand awkwardly.

"Do you have parents, Remy?" said the man, though he seemed to already know the answer. His eyes were full of sympathy.


"You have anyone? You're staying at someone's home?"

"Non," Remy repeated.

"You must be lonely then," the man said, but didn't wait for an answer. "You want to come to my house? I could get you something to eat. And we could work a little on your pickpocketing skills."

Remy's eyes lit up. He hadn't had a real meal since he left the orphanage, and this man fascinated him. "Yes, sir!" he said. The man chuckled and grabbed Remy's hand, an unfamiliar gesture which made the boy flinch... but only for an instant.

"So, Remy," the man began as he led the way down the street, "You don't happen to have a last name, do you?"


GambitGuild is neither an official fansite of nor affiliated with Marvel Enterprises, Inc.
Nonetheless, we do acknowledge our debt to them for creating such a wonderful character and would not dream of making any profit from him other than the enrichment of our imaginations.
X-Men and associated characters and Marvel images are © Marvel Enterprises, Inc.
The GambitGuild site itself is © 2006 - 2007; other elements may have copyrights held by their respective owners.