By Kimberly T.
email: kimbertow at yahoo dot com
|Author’s note: Those characters that aren’t owned by
The Almighty Mouse belong to Christine Morgan, not me. This vignette takes
place in her fic-verse’s timeline, at nearly the same time as the events
of “Just Visiting.”
“For me, I’m here because o’ my brothers. One’s in a maximum-security
physical rehabilitation ward, an’ may never be fit enough t’ live on his
own even when his sentence is up…” –Hunter (Robyn Canmore), Bad Girls
April 19, 2004
The midmorning sun shone through the barred windows, of the hospital wing at Ryker’s Island Correctional Institute. A uniformed guard walked laconically through the halls until he came to the maximum security ward, and looked through the reinforced-windowed door of the semiprivate room in which resided Jon Castaway, former leader of the Quarrymen. “Castaway! Got a visitor today.”
Looking up from his hospital bed, where he had been listlessly turning the pages of a six-month-old Newsweek magazine, Castaway was honestly surprised. “A visitor?” It wasn’t Saturday, the day that Margot Yale usually visited with his son Bryce. Perhaps it was his sister Robyn; he hadn’t seen her in far too long, though she sent letters regularly. Those letters were usually maddeningly vague when it came to her present activities, only hinting of what she was doing while working for the Coalition.
As he sat painfully down in the wheelchair, to be strapped in by the guard before wheeling him away to the visiting room, he thought about his sister and her secretive employers. The Coalition, the organization that provided Margot and Bryce with a secure place to live and paid for his experimental peritonitis treatment; FDA-unapproved drug therapies and unconventional medical procedures that left him weak, constantly in pain and barely able to stand on most days, but were the only thing keeping him alive, over two years after conventional medicine had given him less than two weeks to live.
After the Demon’s offspring had attacked and gutted him at the last Quarryman rally, seven hours of emergency surgery had pieced together most of the bloody jigsaw the monster had made of his insides. But it had also left him with raging peritonitis, a recurring infection that overwhelmed his immune system and sneered at conventional antibiotics, and at all the efforts of the state-paid doctors over the next four months of ultimately futile treatments. If those gentlemen from the Coalition hadn’t arrived four months after the attack, and brought along a sheaf of official documents declaring him to be a volunteer for medical research along with doctors to begin new a new regimen of treatment, he would almost certainly be moldering in a coffin by now.
Jon worried, sometimes, about what sort of work Robyn was doing for this mysterious organization in exchange for his survival and his son’s well-being; he was sure it was ‘covert operations’, the sort of work that their family excelled in after a thousand years of quietly hunting the Demon. No doubt most of her work was quasi-legal at best, and very likely not even ethical, but in the first letter she’d sent him, quietly handed over by the first Coalition operative in an unobserved moment, she’d written to him that she’d do whatever she had to in order to look after what was left of their family.
As the guard wheeled him through the halls to the visiting room, he asked casually, “Did you happen to see my visitor before coming to get me?” The guard replied laconically that he had, and the man’s name was Joseph Clemens; he was described as being a redheaded man of average height and weight and estimated to be in his mid-twenties. Castaway blinked in surprise at the male designation; definitely not his sister, then. But if not her, then who could it be? The eagerness to see his sister vanished, to be replaced by dawning hope and excitement: could it be that his lately painstakingly indirect efforts to obtain his lifelong goal were about to pay off at last?
With his simultaneous arrest and hospitalization, and the arrest of over three dozen of his best fighters after their attack on the Labyrinth, the Quarrymen had been virtually disbanded. In the three years since that awful night, he had spent most of it languishing here in this ward, his life enlivened only by the visits from Margot and his son, his body racked by pain and his soul by remorse. Remorse not for what he’d done in hunting the gargoyles and forming the Quarrymen, but for what he hadn’t done; utterly destroyed them all, and nearly all their traitor-to-Humanity allies with them, at the first opportunity!
Why hadn’t he made good use of the contacts and the fortune his family had built up over the generations of arming themselves and hunting the Demon all over the world, and achieved the means to utterly destroy the clan in one fell blow, and their castle with them?! All it would have taken was one small but sturdy plane flying high overhead, and a bomb with a warhead big enough that even premature detonation would cause a concussive air burst strong enough to flatten the castle below. And the same and simultaneous treatment for the Nightstone building, of course…
Of course there would have been some collateral damage to the city, and probably a few innocent bystanders would have become casualties of war. But it would have been worth it; he’d have happily gone to jail, and even to the electric chair with a smile, if it had finished off all the gargoyles in the city. And if the family’s weapons contacts around the world couldn’t supply suitable bombs… just one airplane for the castle and one delivery truck for Nightstone; both packed with fertilizer and gasoline, and kamikazes at the controls!
Harry the Hammer would have done nicely for a kamikaze driver… Or would have, back then. But now, since Devil’s Night, he was out on the streets proclaiming to all the world that the gargoyles were saviors! That they had saved the city from Hell itself that night, and they should be praised instead of hunted, even worshipped instead of shattered in their sleep! Jon had always known that Harry was one of his less stable personnel, but he’d never dreamed that the man would go that far around the bend.
He had learned from his sister that the Demon herself was apparently dead now, as well as that offspring of hers who had gutted him, dead after Devil’s Night; the Demon had been taken straight into Hell by their brother Jason, in a heroic sacrifice of his own life and soul. But too many other gargoyles still lived and breathed, and now were even obscenely being hailed as heroes by most of the abysmally ignorant general public! Having come to the conclusion that truly extreme measures were now necessary in order to kill them all, he had attempted to coordinate those measures even while still hospitalized and incarcerated. After all, he’d reasoned, if scum like Tony Dracon could secretly run his criminal organization for over a year while ostensibly in a jail cell, the last scion of the Hunters could certainly do no less.
But he encountered stumbling block after stumbling block in renewing his crusade against the gargoyles. The Anvil Corporation he’d founded with money from the family coffers had its assets seized after his arrest, in a massive lawsuit on behalf of the innocent bystanders who had become victims in the attack on the Labyrinth. All of his corporate investors had withdrawn their funding as well, either directly after the Labyrinth fiasco or in the citywide havoc following Devil’s Night. The discreet French armorer that had outfitted the three Canmore siblings with weapons and equipment when they’d taken up their father’s cause, and created the Quarryhammers and other equipment for Jon Castaway later on, had died of an utterly mundane heart attack. The heir to the armorer’s fortune and weapons manufacturing complex had, unbelievably, promptly donated all his assets to the poor and became a Buddhist monk!
He’d finally managed to contact the family’s Middle East acquaintances by means of a series of carefully worded letters… Only to be rudely informed by return letter that he was an utter madman to even consider asking for the help of such an upstanding and honorable family in committing an act of terrorism against anyone, let alone such a well-known philanthropist, and further letters would be forwarded unopened to the American consulate. He knew well that if he had been able to fly there, talk to them directly and produce enough money up front, he no doubt would have gotten everything he required and more… but they were not about to supply a well-trained terrorist team and the right equipment to a penniless man in prison, who might possibly be drawing them into a trap for the U.S. government in order to reduce his sentence.
He’d even tried to contact the Coalition, his sister’s employers, and seek out their aid; he strongly suspected, from tidbits he’d gleaned from his sister’s letters, that they were no friends to David Xanatos. But even after finally achieving a visit from another Coalition operative—who had turned out to be the mercenary Inge Runolf, to his somewhat mild surprise—his case and plea for support had been coldly sneered at, as the ravings of a madman obsessed with revenge. The look of icy contempt in Runolf’s eyes as she’d informed him that the Coalition was doing enough for him already had made him want to rise out of his wheelchair and throttle her, propelled by pure fury and strength of will… but he dared not.
Not when he knew that the Coalition was all that was keeping his son safely with Margot, and not in the custody of that silly brood mare he’d sired Bryce on. Her abhorrent family had almost won him away after his arrest, and Margot had barely been able to keep a step ahead of them before the Coalition had stepped in. Once they had, the threatening letters and blustering lawyers on behalf of the Nebraskan family had abruptly stopped coming, as if they had never existed; he’d never found out exactly what had been done, to silence them so thoroughly. No, so long as his son was safe with Margot and his treatments were continuing, he had to pretend to be satisfied with that and let his crusade on behalf of Humanity languish in bitter silence. But now, an unexpected visitor…
Upon arriving in the visiting room, he eyed the man waiting expectantly on the other side of the thick glass. This Joseph Clemens seemed vaguely familiar, but from where? Then, as he picked up the telephone that connected the two booths for sound, it hit him; not Joseph Clemens at all, but Joseph Carstairs, one of his former Quarrymen lieutenants.
Joe Carstairs had been loyal to the cause, nearly as much so as Harry Hammerton had been before Devil’s Night; Jon suspected that it was partly because a gargoyle had had something to do with Joe spending six months behind bars for attempted robbery before he’d joined the Quarrymen’s ranks. Carstairs had been one of the thirty-eight Quarrymen arrested following the Labyrinth fiasco; apparently, he was now out on parole. And going under the name of Clemens for this visit, with his usual blonde hair under a redhead wig, because being caught visiting another convict would put him in violation of his parole, and back into a cell.
Joe smiled at him and said into the phone, “Hello, cousin! Remember me? Joe Clemens, second cousin on your mother’s side; we haven’t seen each other since the last family reunion. Surprised to see me now, aren’t you? I’m in New York on a business deal, and our Aunt Annie would never let me live it down if I didn’t stop in to see every relative in a three-state radius.”
“Good old Aunt Annie,” Jon responded, smiling broadly. Annabelle Mortenson had been his secretary at Anvil Corporation, and had sometimes been referred to as ‘Aunt Annie’ by the younger members of the Quarrymen in the rare affectionate moments. “So, how’s the rest of the family?”
“Oh, scattered here and there,” Joe said with an offhand shrug. “But some of us have been talking about having another family reunion, sometime soon.”
Hope blossomed joyously in Jon’s soul, though he kept his face in an expression of only mild interest. “That’d be nice; our family should get together more often. Wish I could be there…”
“I’ll be happy to pass on your regards,” Joe offered with a mildly rueful expression.
No plans to break him out of prison, then. Considering his currently precarious condition of health, that was really to be expected. But Joe could relay coded messages for him to the other Quarrymen; that was better than nothing. Jon nodded, then said after a short pause, “Do you have enough budgeted for a big reunion party?”
“Well, we ain’t got much, maybe enough to rent a campground,” Joe admitted ruefully. Meaning, the Quarrymen had a meeting place, but no money in the coffers to mount a serious offensive against the gargoyles… yet. “The kids will want to go someplace where they can play with their toys, and with pony rides nearby, like we used to go on at reunions; can you recommend a good site?”
‘Pony rides’ had to mean the Quarryvans, hover-cycles and jetpacks that he’d outfitted the Quarrymen with… and the Quarryhammers had always been their favorite toys. Joe was asking if he had a secret stash of weapons and equipment, that hadn’t been seized after his arrest and the collapse of Anvil Corporation. “I might be able to think of a place, if you’ll give me a while to think,” Jon said, then looked significantly down at his folded hands for a brief moment. Then, looking back up again, he began nonchalantly tapping one finger against the other hand.
With taps and pauses, while keeping up an innocuous spiel about his son Bryce’s progress in kindergarten, he gave the numerical values for the street numbers of an intersection, close to the docks on the Eastern side. The location of a warehouse that had been left untouched all these years, as far as he knew, and should still contain a stockpile of weapons and transportation equipment for the Quarrymen’s use. “That’s pretty much it… for right now,” he concluded after he’d finished tapping.
Joe nodded sharply once, to show he understood, then relaxed and smiled. “So, how are you yourself doing lately?”
Jon smiled broadly again and said sincerely, “Today, I’m feeling better than I have in a long time…”
* * *
To Be Continued ...