Description: Ace Interpol Detective Daniel 'Jack' Little is fresh from his stunning victory over the mystery and manic Team Sunshine, and straight into a mystery. After two men were attacked during his tournament fight, Daniel Jack is hot on the trail. Little does he know, as he creeps up the belltower in pursuit of his quarry, is that their associations are past mere business folk. Will Daniel Jack escape the trap left for him? Or will he fall victim to... A Tower of Betrayal!? (The cover shows Daniel Jack halfway up a set of stairs, within a creepy clock tower. The interior is a cut-away, outside is the devious and alluring White Angel of Death, the beautiful, blonde scarred Russian woman in a strapless red dress. She is busy closing the door behind Daniel, and has a key in the keyhole to lock it from the outside. Daniel Jack is in the middle of turning around, reaching out and shouting towards the doorway. Behind him, two devious-looking vampires are lunging from the shadows, claws out to capture our stalwart detective.) (45 cents)
The diligent and underpaid staff of the Pao Pao Cafe are hard at work. There was no small amount of carnage wrought at the site of the latest King of Fighters battle; at the very least, it will likely take several days to repair all the light fixtures.
One thing about Southtown though: it has a lot of buildings. In fact, "a lot" is a gross understatement, doing much disservice to the sheer density of the number of multi-family residences in place. Tall buildings interspersed with short buildings, owing to Southtown's existence as a den of squalor until a certain high-powered executive made some sweeping reforms, transforming a sleepy riverside town into a booming metropolis.
There are quite literally hundreds of buildings that could ostensibly have a birds-eye view of the alleyway behind the Pao Pao Cafe. Atop one of them, a four-story tall ryokan positioned close to the chintzy high-class part of Southtown Village, stand two men in black business attire.
They could be patrons of the establishment. The ryokan is a pricy upscale version of a bed-and-breakfast, catering to a number of businessmen looking for a quiet room away from the hustle and bustle of the business district.
The thin one with the goatee is having an agitated discussion with another party on his flip phone.
The burly one has his elbow propped upon an air conditioner unit, and his unblinking gaze has not been drawn away from the Pao Pao Cafe's alleyway for well over a half hour now.
Daniel Jack had been... recovering.
His fight with Neon sent him on the ropes. And then against Ingrid... well, he pretty much self-destructed. Physically AND reputation-wise. He was the Ladykiller of Team Interpol, the monster on a team that included Sergei. It was... pretty intense. And yet, after he revived himself... he had some conversations. Some clues. Some talks. Lita had identified that -something- went down, and two men bowled her over in the process. She was a train wreck right now, and he NEEDED to talk to her. But after getting a few more details from Ingrid... he had an idea where to find those two men.
And what he needed to take care of.
His arrival to the alleyway wasn't loud. The detective was dressed in... his slacks, a white dress shirt, and a set of suspenders. His jacket was messed up fierce between Neon and Ingrid. His shoes were still good. Entering the dingy alleyway, he steps out, looking around. He didn't know what he was even looking for. If Noboru was involved, there was a strong likelyhood that he was gone for good. He would settle for the other two strangers. They didn't come back. that was a -problem-. Daniel Jack stands out in the middle of the alleyway, staring around, glancing about. And suddenly, he stops. His gaze was fixed on something.
And then it was apparent he was looking up at ryokan.
Staring, in fact, straight at the burly one. Staring his eyes straight up at the man. He was looking right at him. Daniel Jack didn't know specifically what he was looking for. Only in broad strokes. But looking up at the pair, he could see those broad strokes up there. What comes next was pretty straight forward for the detective. Raising up a hand, he starts... -waving- at the man. Before drawing a finger out. Beckoning him. They didn't have to come down, certainly. But if they didn't?
He would be coming up.
Artur stares back, unblinking. From the long distance, there might be doubt as to whether he was looking at Daniel, or just the general vicinity...
Until Artur's mouth moves.
Valentin's rapid-fire conversation halts rather abruptly in mid-sentence. The goateed man inclines his head towards Artur. And looks straight at Daniel.
He resumes his conversation on the phone, picking up right where he left off -- and pointedly breaking eye contact with Daniel. For a moment, he pauses to scratch at his temple.
With his middle finger. Clearly, subtlety is not a tool he wishes to employ at the moment.
- - -
By the time Daniel makes his way up to the rooftop, Valentin will have ended his phone conversation, and lit a cigarette.
Artur's eyes are still pointed in the same direction, watching the exit of the Pao Pao as if he were waiting for dawn to break.
Valentin, though, will be looking straight at the Interpol investigator when he arrives. "Nice night, wouldn't you say, Agent Little?"
It wasn't long for Daniel to reach the rooftop.
It was slow, mind you. The detective practically dragged himself there. He could be stubborn on the line, even when driven down to the ground. But while he could miraculously keep going afterwards? It wasn't, like, limber. He wasn't even bothered by the rudeness of the two men. They were European. As he reaches the top, he was almost limping. The men weren't that rude afterall.
He even knew his name.
"Pretty nice, I'd say. Shame you couldn't stick around for the rest of the fight though. Interpol advanced; Ingrid was a hell of an opponent." He cracks his neck to the side, looking at Artur's back. "Got a lot of people down there wondering about what happened though. A big explosion, A robot's head gets taken off, the equipment gets broken, and two VIPs just vanish." He cracks his neck to the other side. He looks over Valentin, up and down. "So, do you boys want to tell me what's going on?"
"Or you feel safe about me figuring it out on my own?"
Valentin's grin grows by an order of magnitude when he sees just how -winded- the poor detective is. To trudge a quarter mile after the beating he had taken over not one, but -two- opponents in rapid succession -- and yet, the persistent Interpol agent is here anyway.
Valentin takes a long, heavy drag off his cigarette as he listens to Daniel speak. And when the Interpol agent is done?
Valentin flicks his cigarette at his partner.
Without removing his gaze from the alleyway, Artur snaps his free hand upwards, catching the lit cancer stick between his thumb and forefinger. He lowers his hand afterwards, remaining impassive and utterly unfazed by the line of investigation.
After all, Valentin's the talkative one.
The scrawnier man raises his hand to his chin, stroking his goatee as he stares back at Daniel. Does he feel safe with the agent figuring it out on his own? He ponders the question for a good few moments, his eyes passing across the Detective's casual attire, the scuff to his boots. He can tell the Agent is in for a long night, and it won't be over for some time.
"Surely, you aren't making plans to detain us, officer...? Shouldn't you be getting some rest?"
Valentin breaks eye contact with Daniel, deliberately glancing over at Artur with the smile of someone who just laid down a -sick- burn and wants validation. Naturally, this being Artur, he won't get that. Without turning his head back to Daniel, he nonetheless pivots his eyes back to the Gedo High alumni.
"I suppose you've questioned your opponents on this, hmm? Why waste time with the victims here?"
"Nah, I'm not gonna arrest a pair of Fio's boys"
Daniel gives that note very smooth, very causally. He steps further across the rooftop, looking out at the alleyway. "Besides, as you point out, you're the victims here. Somebody went ahead and blew up your robot. AY4M3, right? A lot more of those robots out there too. I heard they even have one of me. I hope it has a zoot suit." Daniel Jack wiggles his mustache, hooking his thumbs on his suspenders. He was relaxed, inspite of the stiffness. He DID need a good sleep. He wasn't gonna gonna get it. But he did need it. He looks out to the alleyway again, before looking back to Valentin.
"No, I just got a few questions, you dig?"
He rubs his face, starting from the tips of the mustache and going down to the chin. "What's a couple of nice men like you two doing at a nice gig like this? You're buddy here is on the look out for something. If this was a hit, one of you would have the head off, not the robot. If it isn't Interpol you are looking out for, it would be somebody else. Ingrid? Detective Romero? I got a few questions answered, but they don't seem to know you personally. It couldn't be the man who set those explosives off either, right? He wouldn't be coming out that way at all. He'd already be here, waiting for a distraction, and then making a strike." Daniel Jack pauses, glancing in a random direction. He narrows his eyes, as he stares off. "But it just comes aorund. You're the victims here. But frankly, you just don't seem to be acting like proper victims, you know what I'm saying?"
"It's almost like you're expecting a fight or something."
Artur's response to the line of conversation is the same as ever: Nothing.
Valentin nods his head. The smooth-talking criminal relaxes his pent-up expression as the Interpol agent confides his rationale for the questioning. They may not exactly be on the same sort of first-name basis with Dr. Fio Tessitore as the doctor is, but there is that glimmer of recognition all the same.
Valentin smirks, after a moment; the con man realizes that the questioning had begun with the first ten words. And he'd already answered question number one. The detective is good.
"It'd be tough for a robot to look as sharp as you, my man." The timbre of the conversation changes from tense to amicable, as Valentin flicks two pale fingers at the Interpol Agent. No sense in being -hostile- to the Agent, after all. Pissing off Tessitore pisses off the big man.
He listens, giving his full attention to the man in Interpol greys. "I'm always expecting a fight. Law of the jungle, and in a place like this, you can't ever be too safe, right?"
It's not really an evasion, nor is it a perfect admission. Valentin and Artur -were- expecting a fight.
"We were just watching the fight, Agent Little. Ain't nothin' more complicated than that. And when you live in the middle of a war-torn land, when lights go out and bombs start dropping, you don't have time to think."
Valentin's pale lips pull back into a somber half-smile. "You just get your ass outta there. Taking down the person kickin' tires and lightin' fires is just a bonus."
Artur, surprisingly, nods his head in agreement with that.
"Yeah, I can't believe they make them look like robots still."
Daniel Jack narrows his eyes in the distance. He might have seen something. No, no, it was just his mind playing tricks on the light. "You'd think they'd, you know, make them look like people. I've seen Ayame, and that thing was just a robot dressed like one." He keeps his thumbs hooked, pacing around the rooftop, looking around warily at the shadows. "I can't blame you for bolting though. Would you believe my partners were pinning this on you guys? It's like you guys are magnets for torches and pitchforks. But here's the thing. You were chasing something. And you're still chasing. Or setting a trap. Being the victim of a trap like that, that's not a crime. But if you are looking at a little revenge, uh, that's a line, you dig?"
"Assault, murder, manslaughter, maybe."
Daniel Jack's tone heightens, as he turns back to the pair. "See, I'm having problems now. Problems with victims like you two, who act like a pair of shaken gangsters in the middle of an urban jungle, rather than a pair of law-abiding citizens. I mean jesus, look at you two." He actually gestures at both of them first Valentin, and then Artur. "You are acting like a pair of Croatian made men, about to get revenge on some mofo that embarassed you. You think this guy is gonna kill you? Beat you up for information? I mean, it's getting pretty suspicious that the people in a tournament suddenly have robot copies, and suddenly the same crew has all the same equipment here. It's like their recording us, all shady like. But if you guys aren't being shady like, and are worried for your safety?" Daniel Jack reaches into his slacks pocket.
And Daniel Jack flicks out a card towards Valentin.
"You ask help from the authorities, you understand me?"
"Yeah, as much as they keep talking about how advanced they are, they're some real basic pieces of crap. Aesthetics ain't really what you wanna be goin' for when you want somethin' top shelf though. You look for performance. You look for durability." Valentin is readily communicative and open-minded at the moment -- mostly because, at this point, he has nothing to sell Daniel, and vice-versa. He gestures with open hands, shrugging mildly: "Anything that looks, well... like -people- is just gonna be flimsy as hell, I s'pose."
Artur finally stands up straight, his arms descending to hang by his side. The neglected flame upon the tip of the cigarette has practically extinguished by this point, but Artur still treats it with the respect it deserves as he turns back to face Daniel. The placid expression on his face says it all -- he's listening, fully, to the detective's words.
And he is not threatened or cowed. He simply absorbs the advice like a sponge.
Valentin has mellowed considerably. He could launch into a rapid-fire schpiel at any time he desires, but he chooses not to. Nothing to say, for once; the Interpol agent is more than happy to spell out the narrative for them.
He knows the deal, after all. He notes the look of the vampires. He points out their questionable behavior. And he cautioned that his own teammates were attempting to pin the crime on them. And why shouldn't they? It was suspect.
But Valentin isn't in the habit of volunteering information when none is asked for. He smiles, nodding his head in languid, friendly manner.
But when the card is offered, he accepts it with lazy fingertips. And only then does he pick out the one element to which he has a dispute over. "Croats?" He cracks a wide grin, baring his sharp teeth to the night sky. "Artur, get a load of this, he thinks we looks like Croats."
Artur doesn't respond. Not really.
The goateed one turns back to Daniel, tilting his head three tiny degrees to the side. "Terribly sorry to cause you so many problems. We'll keep your advice in mind, Agent Little.
Valentin tucks the card into the lapel pocket of his jacket, straightening it upon his shoulders. "And..." he adds, "congratulations on your team's advancement. We'll be sure to check you guys out next round, too."
There was an understanding.
As Valentin smiles, Daniel just smiles right back. "Thank you kindly. That means a lot. Just make sure you boys keep out of trouble. I've already had to talk with Dr. Tessitore once, I'd really hate to have to go over and talk with her again." Was it a threat, or a warning. What could Daniel do these men, or even Fio, or even the whole operation?
Well, he could probably make Fio feel guilty.
The detective unhooks his thumbs from his suspenders, and gives a salute. "You two keep out of trouble tonight. Maybe find some nightclubs, enjoy the Southtown party scene. You guys get any trouble? You call that number, and we'll sort it out, you dig? We keep everything above the table." And Daniel Jack turns around, and heads back to the roof access. Turning the handle, he reopens it, ready to head back down, to report back with his team.
They wouldn't have anything to worry about.
When Daniel opened the door, there was a surprise waiting for him behind it. Sergei Dragunov was behind the door. He was in a neutral position with a glass cup in one hand. With his other, he was readjusting his ear.
Sergei had been listening in and recording everything. In complete silence he learned quite a few things General Zima would find useful.
Firstly, Darkstalkers being involved in the tournament. While robot copies are also being made. This puts up the threat of the ability to mass produce elite soldiers faster then they could be trained. The two combined meant that there was now a world wide security risk.
They also now could confirm Daniel got the cure for Sergei from Tessitore, thus having a means of communicating. Daniel's current behavior shows to be effective diplomacy, but lacking in any strength or method of enforcement. Daniel might even be a puppet to the Darkstalkers. Sergei had gathered all this and more.
But Sergei just stood there, eying Daniel.
Valentin returns Daniel's kindness with a friendly smile. It's cute of Daniel Jack to think that he has some sort of authority over the two Romanian vampires. And yet, it doesn't hurt the two much at all to assent to the request to not start trouble. And to call the Interpol help line if there, of course, -is- any trouble.
"Not a bad idea, but the Southtown gig's just not our scene, y'know? We show up, folks get spooked, then I might need to call this cute little number you gave me... Heh."
Valentin passes a look to Artur, but when he turns back to Daniel, he offers a mild shrug. "Nah. Trust me, it ain't worth the effort. We'll let you get your beauty sleep, Agent Little."
He has nothing else to worry about. Not even the Russian on the other end of the door, or his casual indifference to being caught spying red-handed.
Artur and Valentin both incline their head to the hidden arrival. Introductions? Pah. If Sergei was interested in that, it would be on him, right?
With Sergei present... the thin man seems to have suddenly remembered something, eyes widening as he pounds a fist into his hand. Valentin offers,"If you guys are gonna investigate, though, you might wanna start with people who can cloak their presence. You know... ninja-like. Maybe your opponents have a stake in not having their actions recorded, hm?"
Artur actually cracks a smile. Heh. Stake.
"You two gents have a good night now." Valentin winks an eye back at Sergei, before nodding back to Artur. Both turn to leave.
And by 'leave', they simply move to step off the roof of the building.
Daniel Jack freezes as the door opens up. There is a daze that comes over him, as he realizes that... of course. Sergei wasn't going to stay put. Sergei had his own agenda. His own plans. The words of the two vampires just... drift over him. Sergei knew things. Knew dangerous things.
Knew things that other people shouldn't know, ever.
Daniel was caught. And he had to play this, very, very carefully. Artur and Valentin was on the move. Daniel Jack doesn't stop them from leaving, he had MUCH more important things to consider. He stares at Sergei, face frozen. And steadily, almost instictively, he falls into the defensive stance of Todoh-Ryuu. One hand forward. One hand back. And a dead gaze on the Russian. He was badly weakened from his fight. But so was Sergei. He didn't know why he was driven to fight suddenly. Fear, mostly. What about Lita? How much did Lita know? His mouth finally mouths, as words come out.
"How much did you hear, Sergei?"
Sergei was sniffed out, and had to think fast. Daniel was getting ready to fight and the Vampires were getting away.
He could try and get the Vampires, but Daniel might get in the way and it would risk and incident. He could confront Daniel, but then it could end in injury. He could play the fool, like he knew nothing, but Daniel might not be drunk enough. Then Sergei had the most brilliant plan. Sergei reached out and grabbed...
... the door handle. He then very slowly closed the door in Daniel's face. He closed it and there was an audible CHINK.
This was the moment of truth.
Daniel Jack stands fast, waiting, preparing himself, ready for the response from his partner. This was the most dangerous moment. Any moment, Sergei would act. He would answer. He might even... kill Daniel. Daniel Jack begins to burn with orange energy, as he stares dead on. And then, the act was made. Sergei reaches out, and Daniel is already preparing his hand to catch and deflect. And Sergei steadily grabs the door handle, and closes it.
DAniel Jack pauses a moment.
The detective blinks, and inches towards the door. He drops his guard. And promptly, he jiggles the handle a bit. "Oh god dammit Sergei are you really doing this shit." He grumbles. Struggling a bit too long with it, he just rolls his eyes. Raising both hands up, he just slashes his arms down. Both Kasane Ates come down, slicing through the door as he tears it apart. The door probably wasn't locked, mind you.
But the handle was just being so stubborn.
"Okay Sergei, as I was saying, what did you hear?!"
As soon as Sergei shut Daniel out, he ran down the stairs. AS he went down, he broke several key points of the structure. Once he was at the bottom, he made it tumble down. Leaving Daniel 7 meters in above a pile of scrap. He did not want to hurt Daniel without the proper instruments and video recording. But he could have have him catch him either. Slowing him down and waiting for an extraction team seemed the optimal solution.
Sergei must have been Russian for asshole.
As Daniel realizes that yes, he was gone, he chases after. He manages to get a good lead on his partner... until that hard -thump- comes. And with it, Daniel clutches to the handrail as the stairs just collapse. Daniel Jack stares down at the damage left for him by Sergei, the Russian having left him high and dry. He was stuck here. Until... until he got assistance. Likely from the Russians. Or... There was an alternative. Daniel Jack whips out his phone. He dials a number. He brings it to his ear. "Uh, hey, this is Agent Little." He begins.
"I'm gonna need a little help now."
Sergei got Daniel off his tail for now. He was trapped up there and would be picked up in due time. For now, Sergei had to get back to base.
Readjusting himself, Sergei returned to his neutral stance, and quietly slipped out of the building. He silently walked down the sidewalk and into shadow.
The owners of the historic, upscale ryokan will be most unhappy with the damage dealt to its stairway. With a traditional stairway, it wouldn't take long to repair the damage, but the fastener-free construction of the facility is ... somewhat integral to the structural integrity of the building, and will take quite a bit of time and money to repair. Problems that Interpol can surely address once it's brought to their attention, assuredly.
A few blocks away from the damaged ryokan, in the midst of a blind alleyway, two bats flap down to the street level. The flapping of their wings becomes slower and more labored, until two humanoid forms emerge. The wings drape down across their backs, forming the familiar trappings of tailored suits.
Valentin holds out his hand, receiving the cigarette that Artur places within it. A lighter is procured, and for a brief moment, both men find themselves staring at the haunting beauty of the flickering flame.
"Artur," says Valentin, pulling a long draw from the cigarette, "These are supposed to be the brightest and smartest minds in the world."
Artur looks back at Valentin with a raised eyebrow.
"If they only knew, right?"
Log created on 22:19:11 06/24/2016 by Daniel, and last modified on 11:54:05 06/30/2016.