|Chapter 3: A Misaimed Square Hit|
|Interlude I: Mischief Below Alcatraz Island||You Are Here||Misfits Outside the City|
Ricardo Russo exits a bookstore on an avenue by the Chicago River and returns to his Ford, where Christopher Shaldred waits in the driver's seat. Christopher remarks that leaving one's bodyguard in the car seems to be missing the point of having one, to which Ricardo states he did not want to obstruct the bookstore's business. They have a back-and-forth about trusting one's friends as Christopher drives off, only for Ricardo to order him to drive around randomly for a while.
Christopher agrees but wonders why, offering to tell Ricardo his secret if Ricardo shares what is on his mind. Normally Ricardo would avoid answering, but this time he does not: he explains that he had been in a lot of pain when he originally told Christopher he wanted to destroy the world; pain from the loss of his parents, position as a mafia heir, betrayals, and the general pressures of heavy expectations. Thrown for a loop by Ricardo's unusual openness, Christopher asks if Ricardo is planning on 'offing' him—if he does, Christopher will fight back, but he suspects he does not have it in him to kill a friend.
He rattles off a list of his friends—Chi, Leeza, Sickle, the Poet, Rail, Frank, Adele, and Firo—and is not sure if that constitutes "not many" friends or "a lot" of them. For Ricardo, however, Christopher is the only friend he really has. Christopher guesses that this outing was really an excuse for a private conversation between them, which Ricardo admits is correct; as of late, the Russo syndicate has been rather strange.
Even a newcomer like Christopher sees what Ricardo means: the mood around the Russo mansion and men became tense two weeks ago; a man in blue overalls—Graham Specter—paid Placido Russo a visit; Lua Klein was confined in the mansion with Ricardo chosen to take care of her; and Placido himself gained a newfound confidence out of nowhere. Ricardo brings up how Placido and the others have changed, observing that the world he wanted Christopher to break seems to be breaking on its own. Somehow, it does not give him cause to rejoice; he wanted some say in how it was broken. While Christopher thinks Placido is finished as a mafioso, the way the Russos have been acting lately suggests they are not ready to wash their hands of the business. This is to Ricardo's dismay, as he likes the idea of the syndicate disbanding and thus giving him the freedom of a normal life, and he muses that everything "went crazy" after "those people in lab coats left that liquor" with them. Christopher had not heard about that, and as doubt creeps over him, Ricardo looks out the window and asks him to stop the car.
Christopher pulls the car over to the side but sees nothing out of the ordinary when he looks around. Ricardo, looking the most tense Christopher has ever seen him, says that he heard an explosion.
Over by the back alley, Rail's bomb has already drawn a crowd of rubberneckers peering in from the street. Rail is stunned: the bomb burst more than ten yards away toward the opposite side of the alley, even though Rail had left it in the midst of Graham's men—who, while currently groaning on the ground, do not appear to be lethally hurt. As Rail recalls seeing something like a silver disc strike the bomb just before it went off, Frank directs his attention to a small wrench embedded in a large hole in the wall.
Graham approaches them, tossing a much larger wrench in his hand, and Rail realizes Graham must have hurled his small wrench at the bomb to send it flying. Rail applauds Graham's gumption, but is needled by Graham's manically happy response and takes several egg-shaped bombs from one of their coat pockets. Graham does not miss the movement; meanwhile, his friends put as much distance between themselves and Rail as possible.
Rail removes the pins from three of the bombs and throws them Graham's way, with all three sending up smoke and flames as soon as they hit the ground. Frank cannonballs his way through the wall of heat, fire, and smoke intending to attack Graham—this being a strategy he and Rail use often—but Rail peers through the opening Frank made and sees no sign of Graham. Graham, lightly charred but otherwise unhurt, greets Rail from behind and shortly attacks.
Frank charges back in an attempt to intervene, but his arm stops in his tracks upon seeing Rail's neck is caught in the wrench's jaws. Graham uses the wrench to hoist Rail in front of him like a shield, dodging when Frank tries to grab his friend, but lowers Rail to the ground before they choke to death. Rail refuses Graham's suggestion of surrender, feeling like Graham has been mocking them all this time, and takes out even more egg-shaped bombs from their coat. Graham taps his wrench against Rail's cheek within a heartbeat, and his speed is such that Rail has no choice but to consider defeat a real possibility.
Just as Rail is considering fleeing the scene, a woman's disembodied voice addresses them. This is Leeza, and while Graham tries to figure out where the voice is coming from, Leeza taunts Rail over their humiliating failure and creepy 'smile'. Graham objects to Leeza speaking so cruelly of Rail's scars, and denies her accusation of him playing 'virtuous'—he fully admits to being a 'bad guy'.
Graham's rebound taunts lead Leeza to hurl a chakram at him, and Frank's expression of recognition is all Graham needs to turn and deflect the chakram with his wrench. Still keeping tabs on Rail and Frank, he notes any nearby blind spots and asks if Leeza plans on abandoning her friends and turning tail; when Leeza says that is "her line," he turns and sees Chi and Sickle approaching from the crowd of rubberneckers. Where Rail is glad to see them, Graham realizes that Sickle must be the capoeira lady he accused Carol of being.
Graham wonders if this is love at first sight, and takes her warning not to misunderstand as a rejection before he could so much as confess. However, Sickle clarifies she is referring to her fighting style, which she does not consider to be true capoeira as it is intended to cause harm. So saying, she attacks him. Chi joins her and dislocates Graham's left arm, threatening to dislocate more if Graham refuses to answer their questions.
The pain of the dislocation reminds Graham of his childhood, and how his parents had scolded him for dismantling objects when he had no idea what it was like to be on the other end. Taking their words to heart, he had decided to find out for himself—and somehow, not even ten years old, had managed to dislocate every single one of his joints. In remembering how relieved he was to affirm he was something which could properly come apart, he chastises himself for having briefly "gotten a little full of himself"; thinking himself invincible is the type of thinking Ladd Russo would kill him for.
His arm dislocating was the wake-up call he needed—and so he uses his wrench to pop his left arm back into its socket, no discomfort visible in his expression. He announces that he will capture Rail and Frank alive and "not give a damn" about the others, as capturing everyone alive are the types of orders only one who believes themselves invincible would give. The Lamia's teamwork, pride, and bones—he will break them all.
When the police finally arrive on the scene a few minutes later, they find only rubberneckers and damage from multiple bombs rather than any of the actual participants of the fight. Unlike a similar incident three years ago, when the bomb-charred corpses of Sidaris and other men were discovered, they now have witnesses they can interview...except the eyewitness testimonies are wild and inconsistent. While several of them include mentions of a "man in blue coveralls," a man with "mummy hands," and a "giant kid over six feet tall," the police find none of the statements credible. Ultimately, the incident is filed as an "accident involving an industrial fuel transport."
The Poet watches the policemen's inspection from a distance, philosophizing over mankind's tragedy and the karma that will inevitably devour mankind from inside. Sham and Hilton intermittently speak with him, using different vessels in the crowd each time, before he eventually leaves the scene and enters a deserted alley. Making sure he is alone, he drops his usual theatrics and contemplates the high number of 'twins' which seem to be in Chicago alone; as far as he can tell, Huey plans on turning Chicago and New York City into full experiment sites. It is possible, then, that he and the Lamia are in fact the Alices wandering into a prison.
Meanwhile, Rail wanders alleys elsewhere with a hat and muffler on in an attempt to hide their scars. They are still in disbelief that Graham overpowered the likes of Sickle and Chi, recalling how Graham dislocated the joints in Sickle's foot and then her arm and one of Chi's arms for good measure. When Rail had spotted the police cars stopping on the street, they had ordered Frank to carry Sickle and run for the Lamia's first rendezvous point, and used several blue egg-shaped bombs to create a smokescreen.
Now alone and on the run, Rail is at a loss as to what a do—this is the first time the Lamia have ever experienced something like Graham on one of their jobs. They consider but almost immediately reject the idea of asking Huey for orders, too prideful and hateful to 'debase' themselves to such a level, and suppose the 'main' members of the group will come up with a plan after they all reconvene. Still, the idea stings; Rail had been the one to come up with the decoy plan and put it into action, and feels rather mortified at the results. Even so, they also feel guilt over Sickle and Chi being injured due to him and resolves to apologize later.
Looking around the alley, Rail realizes too late that their way is blocked by several figures in white lab coats. Behind them, at the other end of the alley, is a parked cargo vehicle. Upon turning to find more men in lab coats blocking the way they came, Rail hesitates to draw the pins on their bombs—and behind them, Renee Parmedes Branvillier sweetly tells him to come along. Not only is she curious about Rail's unusual explosives, she is considering using Rail to lure the rest of the Lamia their way.
A chill sweeps through Rail; though these may not be Huey's researchers, Renee feels exactly like Huey. This foreboding intensifies when Renee, utterly without malice, says she would like to dismember Rail to see what Huey 'tinkered' with—just like Huey, she sees Rail as a thing.
Ricardo informs Christopher, who has been driving slowly down Chicago's streets, that he has heard another explosion. Earlier they had come across the cluster of police and bystanders around an alley, but stayed away so as not to get involved; this new explosion occurred not long after. Christopher, having heard neither explosion, tactlessly asks if Ricardo is more sensitive to such sounds since a car bomb killed his parents; Ricardo agrees this is likely, admitting that he heard the sound in his dreams and even when awake for a long time after.
With that said, he is not convinced he hallucinated either explosion just now—though such a scenario would be the ideal one. He thus directs Christopher toward the sound; when they see a column of smoke rising from an alley, Christopher stomps on the accelerator. People are already starting to gather by the time they arrive, and Christopher brakes to a crawl attempting and failing to see through the thick smoke.
Another blast rocks the alley from within, and all budding rubberneckers scatter. Christopher asks if Ricardo wants him to go investigate, but Ricardo points to a 'kid' crawling out of the mouth of the alley. No sooner does the 'child' collapse does Ricardo exit the car and race over, Christopher not far behind. He notices the child's silver coat on his way there, the scars on the child's face; putting two and two together, he breaks into a run.
Upon reaching the child, he scoops up their body and, with a look of disbelief, asks, "...Rail?"
- One of the eyewitnesses to the alleyway kerfuffle says the following: "Let me just say this. It was a rather intriguing spectacle." This eyewitness is likely Nile, who commonly prefaces his statements with let me [just] say this and variations thereof.