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Last season on “Agent Carter”: Peggy Carter was sent by the SSR to Los Angeles to assist their West Coast branch in solving a bizarre murder. Over the course of the investigation, Peggy uncovered the criminal conspiracy known as the Council of Nine and put a stop to the schemes of the power-mad Whitney Frost. With Frost institutionalized, and the rest of the Council either dead or imprisoned, Peggy and her allies were still left with two clues: a pin from the Council of Nine’s Arena Club that concealed a strange key, and a redacted file found by SSR agent Jack Thompson which appeared to implicate Peggy in a massacre during WWII. As Peggy finally admits her feelings to fellow agent Daniel Sousa, Thompson is shot by an unknown assailant who takes the file and leaves him for dead. Episode 1: There’s a Man of Mystery July 30th, 1947. Los Angeles, California. Waverly Memorial Hospital. Peggy Carter looked through the window into the hospital room where Jack Thompson lay in bed unconscious. He had been through surgery, but the damage had been extensive. Peggy could tell that the doctors were putting a brave face on for her, giving her the same words of comfort to Mr. Jarvis after Ana had been shot. The whole thing seemed like some sick joke. First Ana, now Jack. Maybe it would be Mr. Jarvis next. Or Rose. Or… “How is he?” The familiar voice shook Peggy out of her thoughts. She must have been very distracted to have been unable to hear the approach of Daniel Sousa; the sound of his steps punctuated by the tapping of his crutch. Peggy cleared her throat before she spoke. “The same, unfortunately. It’s not surprising. The techs seem to think he had been shot half an hour before the maid went to his room. If she had been less punctual, Agent Thompson very well could have…” Peggy’s voice trailed off. Daniel put his arm around her shoulders and looked in on the wounded agent. “He’s gonna be alright, Peg. You know Jack. He’ll pull through.” Peggy attempted a wry laugh. “Oh yes. I know him. He’s a stubborn, condescending, insulting…” She caught her breath, then let her head rest on Daniel’s offered shoulder. “And yet he is still an honorable man in his way.” Daniel gave a supporting hug before Peggy cleared her throat again and turned to face him. “Anything new from the SSR? Have they managed to find that file?” “Not at the moment. Whoever the shooter was, they were professional. No shell casings, no prints. The only thing that appears to be missing from the room is your file.” “If it is my file,” Peggy said turning away and massaging her temples. “From the moment Jack told me about it I was sure it was faked by Masters and the Council to blackmail me. But if that were the case, why would someone shoot a man for a fake file?” Daniel walked over to Peggy. “You’ve been hanging around this hospital for two days. You should go back to Stark’s to rest. I hate to say it, but you’re going to need it.” “Why? What are you talking about?” Daniel sighed. “I’ve received instructions from the SSR. You have been ordered to return to New York. They are wanting all hands-on deck over there. There have been some incidents involving some alleged members of the Maggia.” Peggy’s gaze narrowed as she attempted to focus. “Maggia? Those are Manfredi’s people. I would have thought organized crime would be a matter for the FBI, not the SSR.” “Not in this case. Apparently, there have been a number of attacks, some fatal, committed against the Maggia. The FBI have called us in to assist due to their being some…unusual elements to the case.” Peggy gave a frustrated sigh. “Right now, the only unusual elements I want to be investigating are here. A man has been shot over a file that accused me of taking part in a massacre. I need to be here.” “Peg,” said Daniel softly, taking her by the hand. “I understand. And I don’t want to see you go. But the orders were clear. If the situation in New York get’s worse, retaliation from the Maggia could turn the city into a powder keg. I promise you. We will find who did this.” Peggy gave another look through the window before lowering her head and nodding. “If that’s the case, I think you should have this.” She reached into her purse and pulled out the Arena Club pin. She placed it in Daniel’s hand. “If this attack was staged by a member of the Council, they may very well know about the key. Let Samberly give it a once over for any hint of what it belongs to, but keep it in the vault all other times.” Daniel swiftly put the pin inside his breast pocket. “I got it. I’ll make sure Samberly keeps this quiet. We’ll probably have this all sewn by the time you get back.” He gave a small grin. “Then we might be able to pick up where we left off a few days ago.” Peggy returned the smile. “Really, Chief Sousa. Howard Stark must be rubbing off on you.” The two chuckled for a moment before Daniel gave Peggy another embrace. “Take care of yourself, Carter,” he whispered. Peggy felt a tear run down her face. “You too, Daniel.” Brooklyn, New York. Benton’s Pharmacy. Dr. Robert Benton slowly measured out the tablets before sealing them in a paper bag. He turned to face the boy impatiently waiting at the counter. “Now you make sure your mother takes these, alright? I know they don’t taste good, but they will help her. She’ll feel better in no time. Two before each meal. Can you do that for me?” The boy nodded, and Dr. Benton handed over the bag as the boy placed a handful of coins on the counter. The boy hurried toward the door past some customers, taking a moment to wave at Jean, Benton’s wife, as she stood at the register. Jean Benton gave a friendly smile and waved back as the boy disappeared out the door. She was just placing a sundae in front of a man sitting on one of stools that lined the counter when the bell over the door rang out again. Jean adjusted her apron and looked up to see three men enter the pharmacy. One was a gentleman in a suit and fedora who couldn’t have been more than 5 feet tall. Another was a lanky looking man in a cowboy hat with a rope wrapped around his right shoulder. The last was a hulking brute that had to walk sideway to fit through the door. “Welcome to Benton’s Pharmacy, gentlemen,” Jean said, attempting to be unfazed by the somewhat unusual sight. “Are you here to pick up a prescription? Or would you like something to eat?” The short man stepped up to the counter and sat on a stool across from Jean. “Something to eat would be perfect, sweetheart,” he said in oily voice. He turned to his colleagues. “Do you fellas want anything?” The man in the cowboy hat shook his head, but the large man walked up to the counter and sat down, the stool squeaking under his weight. “I’d like some ice cream,” he said dully. The short man turned to Jean. “That’ll be two vanillas. One for me, one for my pally Ox.” Jean slowly started scooping ice cream into two bowls as the man in the cowboy walked over to the stool next to Ox, which was currently occupied by a customer eating his sundae. “Sure is a nice place you got here, lady,” the short man said. “You run this establishment all by yourself?” Jean placed the two bowls in front of them, then pointed to Dr. Benton on the other side the room making notes in a ledger. “No, with my husband. Ever since he got back from overseas.” The short man looked impressed. “Really? He was a soldier?” “Medic actually.” The short man shook his head as Ox took hold of a spoon that was nearly lost in his fist. “Well, I’m glad to see he’s back home. But even with a man back around the house, it’s important to make sure you’re prepared.” Jean tensed up slightly. “Prepared? For what?” The man idly stirred around the ice cream in his bowl. “Well, for anything. I mean, take this place, for instance. Bet you must have a refrigerator or an ice box to keep all this ice cream. If something happened to it, you might have to throw out all your stock. Then my pally Ox wouldn’t get his ice cream. And he wouldn’t like that, would ya, Ox?” Ox put a spoonful of ice cream in his mouth and slowly shook his head. “I like ice cream, Dan.” The man in the cowboy hat leaned in towards the man eating the sundae. “Excuse me, friend,” he said in a southern drawl. “You’re in my seat.” The customer gave an annoyed look over his shoulder. “Your name wasn’t on it. Go sit somewhere else.” Dan continued speaking to Jean. “And what about the medicine your husband hands out? If he gave the wrong amount of medicine or the wrong kind of medicine to the wrong person… Well, that would turn out pretty bad for you too, wouldn’t it?” Jean coughed nervously and looked over at Robert, desperately hoping he would look up from his work. “Just what is it that you want?” Dan’s smile had a touch of steel behind it as he set down his spoon. “All I want to do is help you, Mrs. Benton. My associates and I would like to make sure nothing ever goes wrong around here for you. Our rates are very reasonable. And you would be prepared for any and all incidents.” The man in the cowboy hat leaned in again. “I want that seat, friend.” The man turned around annoyed. “Listen, pal, why don’t you go play with Tonto and Silver and leave me alone?” “I’m sorry, Mr…um Dan. But my husband and I already have insurance. We don’t need more.” The man in the cowboy hat walked back to the door to the pharmacy, unloosed the rope from over his shoulder, and tied noose into it. Dan’s eyes narrowed to slits. “I assure you, Mrs. Benton. Your insurance can’t give you the protection that we can.” Suddenly the man in the cowboy hat hurled the rope with a flick of his wrist. The noose caught the customer around the neck, and started to choke him. The man in the cowboy hat yanked hard and pulled the man off his stool. Ox got up from his seat and grabbed the customer by the collar as the other customers quickly ran out of the pharmacy. “My friend Montana wants that seat,” he growled. “Okay! Okay!” the man pleaded. “He can have it!” “What’s going on here?” said Dr. Benton as hurried from behind the counter over to men. “Robert, be careful!” Jean said in hushed tones. “They’re crooks! They want money!” Dan hopped off the stool and walked casually to Robert as Ox dropped the customer, who bolted for the door. “Oh were not crooks. We’re just wanting to help you make sure this place keeps running smoothly, Mr. Benton.” “Doctor.” Dan’s smile froze. “What?” Robert’s face grew pale as he saw the three men glaring at him for interrupting. “Er…Doctor. I’m a doctor. Doctor Benton.” Dan smirked and turned to his colleagues. “Hear that boys? We got ourselves a college man, here.” Ox and Montana chuckled as Dan turned back to Robert. “Well, maybe you can help me with something, doc. See, it hurts when I do this.” In an instant Dan delivered a punch to Robert’s gut. He doubled over, groaning in pain. “Robert!” Jean cried as she rushed from behind the counter, but Montana was there to grab her arm. In a few swift gestures he had tied his lasso around her wrists, binding them together. He stood behind her, still holding her by the arms. “Take it easy, darlin’. Let your husband make his house call.” Dan delivered another blow to Robert’s gut then a leaping chop across his throat. Robert fell back first against the counter, reeling as Dan took a few steps back. Then he made a running start, then leaped onto a stool to deliver a knee strike to Robert’s jaw. Robert spun out and fell face first on the counter, sending bowls and silverware clattering to the floor. Dan stepped onto the counter, squatting over Robert and swatting the back of his head. “So what do you say, doc? How do I get it to stop hurting when I do that?” Robert could only cough out some blood, some of it landing on Dan’s lapel. He casually removed a handkerchief to wipe it off then stepped down from the counter. “Ox?” The brute pulled Robert off the counter and held him in the air by the throat. “No! Wait! Please!” said Robert gasping for breath. “We’ll give you what you want!” “Robert, no!” Jean begged as she struggled to free herself from Montana’s rope and grip. “We’ll give you the money! Just don’t hurt my wife! Please!” Dan smiled at Jean as she looked away. “See that? Now that’s a real husband. College man, but he still has some brains in his head. Montana, help the lady make their first deposit.” Montana roughly shoved Jean back behind the counter then opened up the register. “First installment is $500, followed by $1000 every month.” Jean struggled to go through the register with her bound hands. “Please. There’s only about $250 in here. Business has been slow, and…” Montana grabbed the money from the register, and slipped it into his pocket. “Don’t worry about it. You can put it on your tab, along with the $1000.” He pulled on the rope and it slid off of Jean’s wrists. She rubbed them to get feeling back in them as Montana walked around the counter back to Dan. Ox still held Robert in the air. “We got it. They understand the terms.” Dan tipped his fedora to Jean. “Pleasure doing business with you, Mrs. Dr. Benton. See you next month. Ox, drop the doctor, and let’s go.” Ox released Robert with a shove that sent him colliding into the counter. He slid to the floor as Jean rushed to tend to him and the three criminals left, Ox grabbing his left over ice cream as he did. “Oh God, Robert. Are you alright?” Robert waved Jean off as she carefully helped him to a stool. “I will be, Jean. Just take it easy. Remember what mother said, ‘Gentle, gentle’.” Jean hurried back to the counter to get some ice for Robert’s black eye. “Oh, Robert, this is no time to be talking about your mother! We need to call the police!” “No! Jean, we can’t. Do you really think men like that can make threats without someone backing them up? If they get arrested, whoever that is will just send more men. To wreck the pharmacy, to hurt you.” Jean looked back at her husband in disbelief. “You can’t seriously mean that we are just going to hand over our money to them! We are having enough trouble making ends meet as it is!” Robert gingerly stood up from the stool and collected Jean’s purse, hat, and coat from the rack. “Jean, I need you to go back home. I’ll close up the place, but I need to look into some things.” “Robert, you’re hurt. There is no way I’m leaving you here by yourself at night!” Robert handed Jean her belongings and walked her out from behind the counter. “I told you, I’m alright. I don’t think those…gentlemen will be coming back. And I need to take a look at our stock. Maybe see where we can raise our prices so we can make their demands.” Jean looked worriedly at Robert as they walked to the door. “Are you sure you’re alright? I couldn’t bear to think of something happening to you.” Robert gave her a hug and looked into Jean’s eyes. “I’m going to do what I need to do to keep you safe. It’s just a few bumps and bruises. It looks worse than it is.” Jean didn’t look convinced, but Robert lifted her head up so she could see his battered but smiling face. “Take my word on it. I’m a doctor, remember?” Jean sighed but yielded to a kiss from Robert. She put on her hat and coat and opened the door, turning to look back one last time. “I’ll be waiting up for you, Dr. Benton. So don’t do anything to strain yourself.” Robert gave a salute, making Jean shake her head and smile, then she was gone. Robert locked the door to the pharmacy, then began to stand up straighter. Almost trance-like he walked behind the counter then into the storeroom. He passed several shelves of medicine, cans, and dry goods before stopping at an old chest. He lifted the lid, moving aside some old books, revealing a large, white gift box wrapped in black, white, and red ribbon. Manhattan, New York. Hell’s Kitchen. The full moon shone down on the busy streets of Manhattan. The air was full of the sounds of honking horns and shouting voices. Out of one of the seedier bars walked Fancy Dan, Montana, and Ox, accompanied by two ladies who looked dressed for dancing. They both clinged to the arms of Montana, giggling as they chatted about what had just occurred. “What a scream!” the blonde prattled on. “That waiter’s face! You snagged that bottle of champagne right out of his hands!” The redhead leaned in closer to Montana’s shoulder. “You sure know how to handle that rope, cowboy.” Montana put his arms around both women as they walked down the sidewalk. “Stick with me, darlins’ and I’ll show you a few more tricks with this rope.” Fancy Dan rolled his eyes as the women laughed at Montana’s ‘wit’. Ox trailed behind, occasionally looking over his shoulder. “Hey, Montana!” called Fancy Dan. “Let’s cut through here. Then we can cross the park straight to the hotel.” Fancy Dan motioned to his proposed short cut: an alley between two apartment buildings. “Oh, I don’t want go in there!” pouted the blonde. “It smells!” “And it’s dark in there, Montana,” said the redhead. “Let’s just get a cab.” Ox looked nervously at the entrance to the alley. “It is pretty dark in there, Dan.” Montana rolled his eyes. “Ah, come off it, Ox! It’s the fastest way to get to the hotel.” Fancy Dan’s eyes grew wide as he spoke in mock concern. “But you never know, Montana. There may be criminals waiting in there.” Fancy Dan and Montana burst out laughing, as the ladies joined in nervously. Then Montana gave them both a shove that sent them sprawling into the alley. The three men followed after them as the women slowly made their way through the darkness, being careful to watch their step. “I told you it smells in here,” the blonde moaned. “I don’t like it!” “Relax, darlin’. You don’t have anything to worry about. Not with ol’ Montana here to protect you.” The women suddenly leapt back and clung to Montana’s arms tightly. “Well, if you little ladies don’t want to wait to get to the hotel then…” He was silenced by slap to his side by Fancy Dan. The three men and two ladies stood staring at what was standing on the far end of the alley. Lit by light shining from an apartment window, stood a figure in black. He wore a mask and cape lined in red, and a cutlass hung by his side. Across his chest was the symbol of a skull and crossbones. The figure slowly walked toward them, and spoke in a commanding voice. “I think it’s time you ladies go home and go to bed. By yourselves, for a change.” The blonde and the redhead turned and ran screaming out of the alley. “Hey! Come back here!” shouted Montana. He turned back to face the man in black with a sneer. “I don’t know who the heck you are, friend, but you better have a darn good reason for ruining my evening.” The man in black walked closer. “Earlier today, you three stole the sum of $256 from a business in Brooklyn. I’m here to see that money is returned.” Fancy Dan laughed in disbelief. “Listen, pally. We don’t have that money anymore. It’s in the hands of people with deeper pockets than you or me, believe me.” The man in the black looked unimpressed at the three men. “You gentlemen all seem rather prosperous. I’m sure that you have enough money between the three of you to make restitution for the damages you’ve caused.” Ox stepped forward threateningly. “You talk too much, little man.” “Take it easy, partners,” said Montana. He smirked at the man in black as he walked up to him. “You either got a whole lot of guts, or not a lot of brains to talk like that, dressed up in some long underwear. What’s with the skull? You trying to be a pirate or somethin’?” The man in black’s face was unchanged. “A pirate? No.” Montana got right in the man in black’s face, as Fancy Dan readied himself and Ox pounded his fist into his hand. “Then what are you?” The look in the man in black’s eyes made Montana’s blood run cold. “For men like you? Poison.” The Black Terror threw a right hand that connected with Montana’s jaw, then a left to his gut. He then delivered a perfectly executed kick that sent him flying backward into Fancy Dan. Ox charged ahead with a roar only to be tripped up by the Black Terror and falling to the pavement. Fancy Dan leaped in with kicks and strikes, but each one was blocked by the man in black, who finally caught him and threw him into a row of garbage cans lined up against the stone wall. “I’m sorry,” the Black Terror said, as Fancy Dan shook his head to try to regain his senses. “But does it hurt when you do that?” Fancy Dan yelled in frustration and leapt back towards the man in black, but he easily sent him careening into the garbage cans on the other side of the alley. “Then I would suggest you don’t do that.” The Black Terror heard the whistle of Montana’s rope over his head. He raised his hand just in time to catch the lasso before it tightened around his neck. With his free hand he pulled the cutlass from it’s sheathe. He thrusted it up between his face and the rope and sliced it in half with a single stroke. Fancy Dan fumbled through the rubbish from the garbage cans until he came across a broken piece of lead piping. He brandished it and swung it at the Black Terror who parried back with the cutlass. But then Ox charged in from behind, sending his elbow right into the Black Terror’s back. The Black Terror fell forward, gritting his teeth from the force of the blow. Ox loomed over him, with Fancy Dan and Montana at his shoulders. “You’re gonna pay for that, skull-man.” He raised up his fist and brought it crashing down toward the Black Terror. OK: Can the Black Terror defeat the criminals? Or will the Enforcers overwhelm our hero? And what will happen to Peggy Carter when she returns to New York? Stay tuned to find out! Game On!