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Chapter 1

The Short Reach of the Longest Arm of the Law - REVIEW THIS STORY

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

Chapter 1

It was another late night spent pouring over numerous documents and reports filed by the New Orleans Police Department. The massive heap of material engulfed the entire span of his worn office desk, which was lit only by a green glass-shaded table lamp. Police Chief Thierry Ribault rubbed his expansive forehead with the tips of his fingers as he picked up another investigative report from the surrounding mound of work. His back was to the double windows behind him, and his desk faced the door to his office. Through the milky glass of the door, he could see the offices beyond were dark. The office assistants had long gone home, and save for the lonely tapping of an ancient typewriter somewhere at one of the police counters, the building was silent. Thierry returned to his paperwork. He had not realized he was being watched until a fast-moving car down on the streets below suddenly sent a flash of light through the rusted window blinds. As the car passed, he lifted his head to extract the kink from his neck, and followed the bright light with his eyes as it sped across the dark room. The blue-white light swept over the three figures that had suddenly materialized from the darkness.

His heart lurched in his chest, and as it jumped, it seemed to propel him to his feet. His mouth opened to shout, to demand what the men were doing in his office. Instead, he spoke calmly, in a cool rational voice he reserved for potential suicides or hostage-takers.

"I’m afraid that if you desire a meeting with me, you’ll have to return at a more timely hour," he said, as his fingers twitched to the top desk drawer, which contained his reliable .38 Police Special.

The three figures were un-moving, silhouetted by the dim light of his office desk. They all wore hooded capes of an antiquated sort, though the man in the center had his cowl down. The pair that flanked him were buried in shadow; one was short, the other larger and broad in the shoulders. The man in the center, apparently their spokesman of a sort, was tall and lean. The chief decided that if and when they decided to move on him, the man in the center would be the first he would take out. The tall man possessed a presence that seemed to fill the room.

The man in question took a bold step forward, a moment Thierry took to yank open the drawer and produce his weapon. The flanking pair immediately snapped into action, drawing weapons of their own, both holding wrist-mounted crossbows. But the center man made no sudden movement; he merely raised his narrow hands in a gesture of surrender.

"Soyez calme," he said in a voice like syrup flowing over broken glass. The pair behind him lowered their weapons carefully, as Thierry found himself doing as well. He quickly realized the point of his weapon dropping, and snapped its aim back to the center of the tall man’s chest. "We don’ mean any harm, Chief Ribault," he went on to say, his hands still raised.

"Three oddly dressed men in my office at 3 A.M in the morning, and you don’t mean me harm?" he questioned. "I find that hard to believe."

In the darkness he could see the man smile. Despite the time of night, and the dimness of his office, the man was wearing large, dark sunglasses. The larger man behind him moved off to Thierry’s left while the other drifted to the right. Apparently uninterested in the drama unfolding between the Chief of Police and the tall man, the shorter man studied the photographs on the wall. The larger man seemed the complete opposite, nervously twitching in the corner. The way they moved, their dress, their seemingly obsolete weaponry; Thierry added the parts together, and his mind could only loudly whisper the sum: Thieves’ Guild. Thieves’ Guild. Thieves’ Guild.

"We come with a proposition," the tall man continued. "A request for assistance."

"Oh, yeah?" Thierry said curtly, while studying the nervous man in the corner. In his mind he had already dubbed the broad man "Twitchy." "And what might that be?"

"Ah, straight to business, right to the point, dis man," Tall Man said. His chin lifted slightly, the thin smile still on his lips. Thierry was beginning to doubt the slim figure before him was even a man. His stance and expression were representative of a macho punk kid. Old enough to pass as an adult, but still young enough to be all brass and balls. Approximately the same age as Thierry’s own son. The Tall Kid lowered his hands and reached into his cape.

"Keep your hands where I can see them, and keep talking," Thierry leveled his gun.

"Take it easy, mon ami," the Kid said, as he produced a deck of playing cards. "Completely harmless, neh?" he said, shaking the deck between his thumb and forefinger. He shuffled them from one hand to another, the "frrrrippp!" of the cards harsh and loud in the small office space. The sound sent Twitchy into another round of…twitching. "We are a poor lot, as you can see," he began, "but we are willing to make you an offer that will be beneficial to both our sides."

"And what would the New Orleans Police Department want from a bunch of gutter trash punks from the Thieves’ Guild?"

One of the Kid’s brows shot up above the rim of his glasses. Apparently, Thierry’s theory about who these men were was true. "Frrrrippp!" went the cards suddenly. "You’ve heard of paying ‘protection money’ before, haven’t you, Chief Ribault?"

"So you plan on what? Having me give you cash or you’ll break my kneecaps, trash the city, or something like that?"

Tall Kid laughed then, and shook his head. "We aren’t street thugs or gangsters, monsieur…Well, except mebbe for Twitchy over dere in the corner."

It was Thierry’s turn for his eyebrows to rise. It was as if this man were picking up his stray thoughts, like loose change from between couch cushions. Thierry took several steps backward, keeping the Tall Kid at a distance as he suddenly then decided to walk to the window. Tall Kid parted the blinds with his fingers and peered down at the street below. Thierry was growing more and more uncomfortable with the situation. Though Twitchy and Tall Kid were in direct sight, Shorty the Photography Connoisseur was just out of his line of vision.

"A criminal is a criminal," Thierry said, "doesn’t matter if they belong to a guild, or a gang, or have a secret handshake or decoder ring."

Tall Kid smiled at that, sending his high-beam grin into the streets below. "Is that what you felt about your son?"

That was a harsh blow, and Thierry could feel it like a punch in the gut. The Tall Kid turned his stare on Thierry then, and he could feel it burning right through the dark lenses of his shades.

"What do you know about my kid?" Thierry asked, his voice a little rough.

"What don’t I know?" Tall Kid replied, then flipped something out of his deck of playing cards. A photograph landed on the Chief’s desk. It was a wallet-sized photo of Alain Ribault, Thierry’s son. His wallet-sized photo, from his wallet.

"How did you---where?" Thierry stuttered, then resisted the urge to pull out his wallet and rifle through it. He kept his hands on the gun, and pointed even more resolutely at Tall Kid’s chest.

"Shame your kid came in to the spotlight like he did, but I guess it’s to be expected when your own dad is chief of police," Tall Kid said. "Didn’t hardly get a fair trial, dat one. Petty theft like dat don’ deserve de time he got."

Thierry could feel the heat rising to his face. His hands were trembling as he clutched his gun tighter. "Give me one reason not to bring the entire police force of New Orleans down on your sorry butt," he snarled.

"Sore subject, neh?" Tall Kid said. "Ya know your kid don’ belong in jail. Wouldn’t be so hard ta get him out neither."

"So is that your angle then? Break my kid out of prison for what? Money? Kid, you’re in the wrong place. You’ve picked the wrong guy."

"And you’ve got the wrong idea. Don’t want money. Never needed it afore, don’ need it now. When I said ‘protection’ earlier, I meant protection for us."

"For the Thieves’ Guild? Police protection?"

"More or less. Let’s call it immunity. You don’ bug us, we don’ bug you," Tall Kid said with a shrug. "De NOPD ain’t exactly the cleanest side o’ bacon in de country."

Thierry cringed. "No deal, punk. Freeing Alain isn’t worth dealing with you trash."

"Let me up the ante then," Tall Kid said. "All you want is a safe city, makes you look good, right? A nice clean cop like you, climbin’ your way up de ladder ta chief, and usin’ de honest way no less. Dats a rare event here in N’awlins. Job like dis usually comes wit’ some…expenses."

Thierry frowned.

Tall Kid continued. "Not you, no. I checked you out. Real clean cut, you are. Dat’s why it looked so bad when your kid was arrested. Some people jumped for joy when Alain was hauled in. Wanted to see your squeaky-clean butt outta the position it’s in. I know dese people, dey don’ like cops what can’t be bought."

"But you didn’t speak a word when dey came down on your boy. ‘A criminal is a criminal,’ you say."

"Find a point and get to it," Thierry demanded.

"I know criminal, I speak their language. Thugs, punks…the general trash you talk ‘bout is clottin’ up de city streets."

"Muscling in on your turf, you mean," Thierry suggested.

Another flippant shrug followed. "You want names," Tall Kid gestured over the pile of files containing various serious criminal activity on Thierry’s desk, "I’ll give you more’n half the answers to the crimes on dis table."

"And what makes you think I could get an entire police force to protect a bunch of thieves?"

"I don’ expect any miracles. We got…friends…in de force all ready. We can all work together. May I ask you a question?" Tall Kid asked suddenly.

"I thought you knew everything you needed to know about me," Thierry replied.

"’Cept for one t’ing," he said. "How do you feel bout mutants?"

Thierry was surprised by the sudden and seemingly arbitrary change of subject. His heart, which had slowed to a thudding rush once again resumed a more panicky rhythm. "Don’t care one way or another, so long as they aren’t blowing things up or robbing banks. Or wearing pink spandex."

The sunrise smile blared from Tall Kid’s face again. He reached up and pulled the sunglasses from the bridge of his nose. The earpieces freed some of his lanky, long hair from his ponytail. Tall Kid tossed the glasses onto Thierry’s desk and they landed with a clatter beside the picture of Alain. Thierry watched their flight from Tall Kid’s hand to the desk before looking back at the man before him. The eyes that looked back at him were an incredible intense red on black, like the fiery glow of molten rock between the cooled black of hardened lava. The gasp that tore from Thierry’s throat followed the heavy thud of his Police Special as it hit the hardwood floor of his office.

"You---you’re a mutant?" Chief Ribault found himself stuttering again.

"Oui," Tall Kid replied. "Are you absolutely shocked and amazed?"

"What…what do you do exactly?"

"You mean, what’s my mutant power?" Tall Kid asked. "I blow up stuff, rob banks and wear pink spandex."

"I see," Thierry breathed. "I need to sit down."

Tall Kid promptly turned his office chair towards him and backed away from the desk, resuming his position between Twitchy and Shorty. Thierry sat down, his initial reactions to the criminals before him completely forgotten with this new revelation. If Tall Kid wanted to kill him, or force him to do something, he would have done so by now. Thierry picked up the photo of his son. "Where did I go wrong?" he asked himself. "Was it all those late nights I spent out on the beat or at the office? What happened to us, Alain? We used to be close."

"So you say you can get him out of prison?" Thierry asked. "I take it you mean illegally."

"Mostly," came the reply.

Thierry sighed and looked at the paperwork strewn across his desk. "And these crimes…and others? Solved?"

"Make your job easier, sure."

"If we lay off your people."

"Let’s expand on dat shall we? When you say my "people," you mean everybody. Not just thieves. I’m talkin’ my type of people."


"Oui. But I promise you no explosions or pink spandex."

Chief Ribault rubbed his forehead. "It makes a certain kind of sense," he said, mostly to himself. The only way he could lose was if he were caught. But if they were all in it…the entire police force…helping this band of rogues, and…mutants? New Orleans could be some kind of safe haven of a sort. No malicious crime. And his son. Alain would be out of prison.

"I’ll leave a message wit’ you within the next week," Tall Kid was saying. "I’ll let you know where you can meet up wit’ me and Alain."

"Yes," Thierry nodded.

When he looked up from the photo in his trembling hands, the three men had vanished as quickly as they had appeared.

Chief Ribault examined the creased playing card he held in his hand. It was a two of diamonds, with the words ‘Block 43: Warehouse District 3 AM’ written on it in a scrawling hand. He stood before the warehouse that the playing card had directed him to. He looked up at the massive door before him. The lot was vacant save for a pair of street people who were warming themselves around a burning oil barrel a few blocks away. Thierry looked away from the pair when he heard a noise coming from between two of the tall warehouse buildings. The sound of feet scuffling on pavement directed him toward the pair of figures emerging from the shadows. Thierry recognized the Tall Kid immediately by the sight of his glowing red eyes. The man that trotted along with him, slightly slouched against the night mist was warmingly familiar.

"Alain," he said softly, walking forward. He met them halfway, or rather, met Tall Kid, while Alain hung back a few steps. Thierry desperately wanted to embrace his child, tell him that he was sorry and that there was nothing he could do at the time…something…to make it better. He looked so thin, so sullen. None of that self-assuredness he used to radiate like a furnace burned from him now.

"It’s not going to be de same," Tall Kid said.

Thierry tore his eyes away from Alain to look at the other man. "No, he’s a fugitive now."

Tall Kid looked at Alain. "Yes, but he’ll be wit’ us. He’ll have a home, and he’ll be free."

"You don’t need to talk about me as if I weren’t here," Alain mumbled then.

Maybe he hasn’t changed completely. Still a brat, Thierry thought with a smile.

"Alain," Thierry said again. His arms opened slightly toward the boy as he slid into them as easily as he had as a child.

"Dad," Alain said. "Dad, I’m sorry."

"Alain, I know. I am too."

Alain stepped back from him then, ending the embrace as quickly as it began. Tall Kid dropped a hand on the boy’s shoulder. "You’ll be comin’ wit’ me now, kiddo," he said, smiling slightly. He turned back to Thierry. "You can leave a message wit’ one of my people whenever you wanna meet wit’ Alain…or me."

"Funny," Thierry said, still looking at his son, "I never learned your name. I’ve been calling you Tall Kid all this time."

Thierry was blasted with one of those high-octane smiles. "It’s Remy. Remy LeBeau."

Thierry stuck out his hand and Remy took it warmly. "Nice doing business with you Remy LeBeau."

Remy nodded, smiling. "We’ll be keeping in touch, Chief Ribault. I hope that New Orleans is going to be somewhere safe to come home to…for a lot of us."

Thierry stood in the drifting mist for a while after Remy and Alain had disappeared into the shadows from which they had emerged. Despite the complications between what he knew to be the right and wrong side of the law, he felt in his heart that what he was doing was the right thing.

"Somewhere safe," he repeated. Standing there in the night in one of the most infamous cities of the country, "safe" was exactly what he felt.


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