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Chapter 2: Such a Lovely Place Private detective Hannibal King sat at the wheel of his darkened car, his focus locked on the building across the street and a block over. It was an ornate building with pillars on either side of the door. In the well kept yard was a sign with the building’s name: The Lincoln Funeral Home. King took a bite out of his In-N-Out burger, wiping off some mustard that dripped on his trench coat. He knew the illustrious Mr. Lincoln probably was responsible for a fair share of the bodies that were tended to in his establishment. He was the cold, calculating gang leader whose ruthlessness had earned a name whispered by every criminal in Los Angeles: Tombstone. King picked up a pair of binoculars and looked through them at the funeral home. It didn’t matter what the LAPD thought. Everyone knew that Lincoln was dirty. Someone just needed to do the work and catch him in the act. And if the LAPD was too busy covering their backsides, then King would just have to do it himself. King’s thoughts were interrupted by a van driving past him and turning to park in front of the funeral home. He focused the binoculars on the van to see two men and a woman get out, leaving the shadowy figure of the driver behind. Two of Mr. Lincoln’s men walked out of the funeral home to meet them, and checked them for weapons. “Alright then,” King breathed. “Now things are getting interesting.” Moth stood with her hands above her head and gave a cheeky grin to the man who was frisking her. “Has anyone told you you have very strong hands?” The man just glared at her and turned to his partner. “She’s clean. What about the other two, Juan?” Juan gave another look at the tall, black haired man in a suit, and the stocky, brown haired man in a black wifebeater. “No guns, Robbie. But the guy did have this.” Juan held the bundle of rope he had taken from the stocky man’s shoulder. “That’s mine,” the stocky man growled. Juan smirked at him, and held the rope out to him. “Not if you want to get in there, it isn’t.” “Please, gentlemen,” the tall man said nervously. “I’m sure we can find a compromise here.” Moth put her coat back on as she interrupted. “There’s no need to compromise anything, Percy. If you want the rope, you hold on to it.” She gave a look to the stocky man, who’s look was becoming more agitated. “You can have it when we’re done. Alright, Jason?” Jason looked away and grumbled his consent. Moth turned back to Juan and Robbie. “See? Settled. Now let’s get going. We wouldn’t want to keep your boss waiting.” As the three guests were escorted into the funeral home, behind the building a man in black snuck over a fence. He quickly moved through the shadows until he got to a window leading to the basement of the building. He opened the window and slid into the funeral home. On the main floor, Moth, Percy and Jason walked past viewing areas until they reached a door marked ‘private’. Juan opened the door for them and they entered the lavishly furnished office. “Take a seat,” Juan said. “The boss will be here in a sec.” Moth and Percy sat down, but Jason stayed standing. Moth looked up intently at Robbie. “What are you looking at, lady?” he said. “Oh, nothing. Just admiring your threads. The jacket, the shirt. It looks very nice. Don’t you think, Percy?” Percy looked away from a clock on the wall. “Hmm? Oh. Oh, yes! Very…um… functional.” The door to the office opened again, and the man known as Tombstone entered. He was dressed professionally in a black suit and tie. His skin was white with albinism, and his teeth looked liked they belonged in the mouth of a shark. Behind him was a muscular man with blond hair in a denim jacket and jeans. He gave an imposing stare toward Jason, who didn’t blink as he returned it. “Sorry about my lateness,” Tombstone said. “We had just finished a service that ran long.” “Not anyone I know, I hope,” Moth smiled. Tombstone sat down at his desk, and took in the sight of his visitors. “I was wanting to see exactly what it is you people were offering. Your initial message was rather… vague.” Moth leaned back in her chair and extended her arms. “We wouldn’t want that, Mr. Lincoln. We understand that you are busy man with a lot on your mind, not all of it legal. And we represent someone who wants to assist you in your daily operations. For a price, of course.” Tombstone stared at Moth, then started laughing. Juan and Robbie joined in as Moth tightened her fist beneath the desk while she maintained her pleasant expression. “Did I say something funny?” “Oh, not at all, miss,” Tombstone chuckled. “I’ve just never had anybody try to shake me down before.” “I assure you, Mr. Lincoln, we are not wanting to take advantage of you. We are prepared to make it worth your while, giving you the protection you need from the authorities and other organizations.” “He already has protection,” the man in denim hissed. “Oh really?” said Jason mockingly. “Does he have you call someone for help?” Tombstone held up a hand. “Easy, Bush. Just how do you people plan on protecting me?” Moth glanced at the clock and then at Percy before answering. “It is a guarantee from our leader: the Shroud.” A hush fell over the office. Moth looked at each of the men in front of her. “Surely you have seen the news? Certain gang members going missing, some turning up dead. Others talking about a living shadow laying waste to 10 men at once? Consider that power at your disposal. Or, maybe, that power turned against you.” Tombstone glanced at his men’s disturbed faces then back to Moth. “Let me get this straight. You work for the guy that’s been taking out my competitors. Now he wants me to sign up with him, and he doesn’t even have the guts to show his face?” Moth smiled and shrugged. “I’ve seen his face. Trust me, you’re not missing much.” Tombstone chuckled and nodded in approval. “Heh. You’re cute. You just bought yourselves 2 more minutes. Talk fast.” Moth gave another look to the clock then went on. “The Shroud will allow you to continue to operate in the city, however there will be some changes made to make certain things run smoothly. Percy?” Percy pulled out a pair of glasses from his pocket and a note pad. He put the glasses on turned to first page. “Er, now, then. If you were to accept our offer, the Shroud or one of his associates…, um that’s us by the way, would be in charge of responding to any threats to your operations, criminal or law enforcement related. The Shroud or his associate will either broker a peace, or will… um…neutralize the problem by the most efficient means possible.” Percy looked up from his notes at the dumbstruck crime boss and his men. “The gist of this is that there will be no more drive bys or retaliation killings of any kind that endanger civilians not in the game. Any action taken without the Shroud’s authority will be punished. Severely. ” In the basement, the man in black fumbled with a flashlight. He shone the light around the room, letting it rest on a large safe. “Lazy,” he muttered beneath his ski mask. “Didn’t even bother to put it behind a picture.” He knelt down next to the safe, and put his ear to the door to listen to the tumblers as he turned the dial. “As for guns,” Percy went on in the office upstairs. “The Shroud is unfortunately kind of particular about that subject. You would be out of the weapons and gun smuggling business, not to kids, and especially not to people planning attacks on civilians. The Shroud is a little more lenient regarding drugs. As long as it’s not to kids, and it’s not enough for them to distribute on their own, it’s fair game for you.” Tombstone stared unblinking as Bushwacker grit his teeth. The man in black finally opened the safe, revealing the stacks of money inside. With a wave of his hand, a white bag with dollar signs on it appeared in his grip seemingly out of nowhere. He started emptying the safe of it’s contents and putting them into the bag. “Hey!” The man in black’s heart stopped, then he turned to see a man wearing a gold chain standing at the stairs leading to the basement. “What the hell are you doing here?!” “And finally, there’s prostitution,” Percy said. Robbie and Juan sat up slightly, having let their eyes close as Percy had rambled. “Now, we aren’t going to get in the way of people’s entrepreneurial spirit. If that’s how a woman, or man for that matter, wants to make their living, so be it. But it will be their choice. No sex slaves, no grooming kids, and no drugging people up to make them perform. And no freebies for your people. They pay the same as everyone else.” “Let’s just cut to the chase,” interrupted Tombstone. Percy gulped as Tombstone’s eyes stared at him. “How much is the Shroud expecting me to pay for all of this?” Percy fumbled with his notepad before finding the answer. “For his protection and assistance, the Shroud will require 33% of your gross earnings at the end of the year. That will still leave you with 67% to use for upkeep and payroll.” “Are you done?” Bushwacker said. Percy gave a last look at his notes. “Umm, yep. Yes, that’s all.” Bushwacker clenched his fist. “Good.” With a swift gesture he pumped his fist, and Bushwacker’s arm started to melt and reform itself. Where his hand was, there was now the barrel of a shotgun. Juan and Robbie pulled out their pistols as well, and aimed that Percy, Moth and Jason. Meanwhile, in the basement, the man in the gold chain approached the man in black with his gun drawn. “Put down that bag, genius. Are you some kind of nut to break in here? Do you even know who you’re stealing from, man?” The man in black swung the bag so it collided with his assailant’s face. He tried to run but the man in the gold chain tackled him by his ankles to the floor. “Oh, you’re going to get it now!” he said as he scrambled to get on top of the thief. The thief didn’t reply or fight back. He just waved his hand in front of his face and whispered under his breath, “Once Upon a Time.” The man in the gold chain didn’t even notice that the thief’s clothes had changed from black to a red and blue harlequin outfit. He grabbed the thief by the shoulder and turned him to see his face, only to see the face of a skeleton. “What the Hell?!” he screamed. “Close enough,” the Brother Grimm said, as sparkling light flew from his finger tips and blinded his attacker. “Please let me waste them, Mr. Tombstone,” Bushwacker said. “Let me start with this geek and finish with this snarky little…” Tombstone stood up from the desk. “Enough, Bush. Lady, and gentlemen. I’ve listened to your proposal. And I believe we have nothing left to discuss.” Moth looked up coyly. “But what do you want me to tell the Shroud?” Tombstone gave a humorless smile. “The Shroud sent you to deliver a message, so it’s only fair I do the same. Bush? You and the boys take these jokers downstairs. I’m sure they’d appreciate a first hand look at how the cremation process works.” Suddenly the door to the office burst open as the Brother Grimm sent his opponent slamming into the desk. “Barton!” Percy shouted. “Now?” said Jason. “Yes, now!” Moth shouted as she ducked beneath the desk. Jason held out his hand and his rope, still hanging around Juan, came undone and started dragging Juan toward him. A fierce right hand knocked down Juan and the rope left off of him into Jason’s hands. “Once Upon a Time,” Percy said and waved his hand in front of his face. He was instantly transformed into the same outfit and Barton. Robbie opened fire, and Percy pulled out a handkerchief from his sleeve. Miraculously the handkerchief wrapped around the bullet, stopping it in midair. Before Robbie could get off a another shot, he cried out in alarm. His jacket and shirt were starting to come undone, long fibers unfurling outward from him. Moth grinned dangerously at him. “Told you I liked that outfit. Let’s see if it looks better if we take it in a little.” The fibers constricted around Robbie’s neck and chest as he fell to floor. Bushwacker opened fire with the gun in his arm and sent Percy sprawling to Barton. “You weren’t supposed to draw attention to yourself, brother,” Percy said. “You’re welcome, Percy,” Barton hissed. “Now let’s get the hell out of here!” Moth stood up and caused the fibers in her coat to reform themselves into a pair of wings. She swung them towards Tombstone only to have them be shot at by Bushwacker. “Reloading that must be a bitch,” Moth said as her fibers flipped the desk over. Tombstone shattered the desk with a single blow of his fist. “Kill these freaks! All of them!” The sound of gunfire carried through the air to Hannibal King’s car. He grabbed the police radio and tuned in to the scanner. “Dispatch! Emergency! Emergency! Shot’s fired! Shot’s fired! Lincoln’s Funeral Home! Send back up immediately!” A confused voice answered back. “Is that you, King? What are you doing on this frequency? You aren’t supposed to have a set up! You were fired, remember?” “Hey, charge me later!” King said, watching as three men ran out of the funeral home to the car parked on the curb. “There was some kind of meet going on at Lincoln’s! They might be in trou…ble.” King stopped short as he watched the door of the car break off, and a large, misshapen man climbed out. The three gang members pulled out their guns, but the thing just roared and knocked out all three with a swinging forearm. King looked in disbelief, then turned back to the radio. “Dispatch! Send all the men you’ve got! We’re going to need it!” OK: The Night Shift: Moth (Mentally can control fibers, either in clothes or hair. Can form fibers into wings that she can use to fly.) The Brothers Grimm (Can magically produce small, novelty objects with magical powers.) Hangman (Strength and mental control of indestructible rope.) Misfit (Strength and durability.) Tombstone (Strength and durability), Bushwacker (Strength, durability, and can transform his arm into a gun), plus 10 gang members. If the Night Shift can defeat Tombstone and his men, and escape with their loot before the cops arrive, they win. Game On!