Flying over the sea of twinkling lights that was the city of Vale after dark was a novel and chilly experience for Suzaku. The trip had taken almost an hour from Beacon out to where they were, shooting across the clouds hundreds of feet above the occasional orange-lit air-taxi on the way. It had been unnerving when he realized their own safety lights were off, perhaps for secrecy's sake. Such a thing seemed horribly reckless. Suzaku squinted at one of the brighter sections in the distance, and thought he could make out a landmark or two. Stark Tower was easily spotted, as were the Fink and Blue Bank buildings. They were the tallest on the horizon, the brightest-lit. The others, it was too hazy to see. The smoke from the factories lingered, even up this high-it smelled, slightly, but Suzaku cared more about missing the sights than enduring the smells. Part of him, a less diligent, less committed, less defeated part of him, wondered if he'd ever have the time to tour this city.
He didn't like the looks of the part of town where they landed. The falcon had set down in an open lot, surrounded on all sides by worn-looking brick buildings with metal grates on their windows and bars on their doors. He'd grown even more worried when Lelouch had opened up a container set into the side of the ship and given them their choice of weaponry—standard Britannian firearms, army knives, batons, and mass-produced longswords. Lelouch himself had simply grabbed a knife and pistol. Though Suzaku and Kallen both hesitated, Suzaku had taken a pair of batons. Kallen grabbed a pair of knives.
"Expecting a fight?" Suzaku asked.
"Always. Can't be too careful given what's been happening lately." Lelouch said, before tapping into the earpiece in the side of his helmet. "Alright, Lieutenant Kyrell, we're good to go. Stay high, wait for my signal." Lelouch continued. He looked at Kallen and Suzaku, considering. "I should really get some of these for both of you."
"Where are we going?" Suzaku asked, as the Falcon lifted off. Lelouch pulled out his scroll.
"Somwhere we can follow up on our first lead. Come on." He said.
Suzaku hadn't seen much of Vale, outside of Beacon. He'd forgotten just how big the city was—they had traveled several dozen miles and still were closer to the city center than the bay that marked Vale's western edge. It was downtown, somewhere—when he asked Lelouch, all he'd gotten was a brief 'East Smoketown', which didn't really help things. Wherever they were, Suzaku didn't like the looks of it.
The buildings they passed seemed to loom over the sidewalk. Three or four stories, most of them, a haphazard mix of old brick, worn concrete, dusty glass and rusty metal. Some had broken windows, others had iron bars. It didn't look like a friendly neighborhood by any means. Even the streetlamps seemed to slouch, some stuttering every once and awhile and letting in sudden floods of darkness. It was in times like these that Suzaku was grateful he'd spent so much time training his ears—even in the shadows of these buildings, if he was paying attention, nothing should be able to sneak up in the dark.
After a few blocks of this, however, Suzaku noticed a considerable shift. The sound picked up. They passed by a few people, each casting them a wary eye and moving along quickly. There were a few ragged-looking people, clearly homeless, lying around at the very edge of the place, in doorways and alleys. Further in, the few folk they saw were clearly better off, with some in relatively casual clothing and a few in suits. Then there were men dressed in tight, colorful, skin-baring clothing Suzaku would have been ashamed to wear and women in similar outfits that Suzaku was too embarrassed to look at. Directly, at least. There wasn't exactly enough left to the imagination for viable weapon storage, but he did watch from the corner of his eye in case any threatening moves were made as he, Lelouch, and Kallen swept past. Suzaku glanced over to see how Kallen was reacting to this—most of her face was hidden under her mask, but her mouth was twisted in a little tight-lipped frown of discomfort.
Then Lelouch stopped, still far from what seemed to be the really lively area a few blocks down.
"We've arrived." He said, turning back to glance at him. Suzaku assumed. It wasn't exactly possible to see his eyes under the mask, particularly with the neon blue of the streetlight above reflecting off of it. "We'll be in and out—I'll handle the talking."
Wondering, not for the first time, what in the world they were getting themselves into, Suzaku followed Lelouch and Kallen into the building.
It had taken the better part of two weeks, and the nightclub was barely back on its feet. The insurance paperwork alone was turning out to be biggest fucking headache of Junior Xiong's life. Well… at the very least, one in a long line of them.
"Hey Jun, we're out of rum." Junior's employee said. He glanced up from the papers he was going through on the bar to check her outfit—red, so it had to be Militia. Thank the godsdamned king they came color-coded.
"What are ya telling me for? Just go fill out a requisition form." Junior replied. He gestured towards the office door, behind the bar. Militia looked at the door, then back at Junior.
"Yeah… I'm not gonna do that." Milita said, before turning and walking away. Junior glowered after her, then got up from his seat at the bar and walked to the office himself. Honestly, when he'd taken those two in, he hadn't realized exactly how big of a favor he'd been doing Miss Malachite. One didn't just turn down the Spider herself, particularly in his situation, but still—they barely did anything, and they couldn't even fight off a single fledgling huntress.
And that was another thing for Junior to grumble about, filling out the requisition form and slamming it into the wire bin. That damned blondie. He'd had muscle out looking for her, right up until her photo popped up in the list of new trainees at Beacon. There weren't many rules in the Vale criminal underworld, but 'hands off the hunters' was universal; messing with any of them was a good way to end up wearing concrete shoes at the bottom of the Red River. Nobody wanted Bigby fucking Wolf—or, maybe worse, Ozpin's pet witch—knocking on doors and sniffing around over some worked-over huntkid, and that was the best-case scenario; the community was more than willing to take care of things before it came to that. Quicker and cleaner to take care of things in-house, nip it in the bud. Junior wasn't suicidal. And of course, some folk had serious reservations about rolling people who were basically goddamned heroes. Normally Junior would have agreed with that point of view; it didn't mean he wasn't still fucking pissed. They were doing badly enough as it was, without having to replace most of their inventory and decor.
The last thing he expected to see, as he walked back into the bar, was a customer. He found three. A rail-thin looking guy in some sort of helmet, with a big sweeping black and red cape and a purple-and-gold suit that looked like a magician's outfit. The other two were clearly his goons, walking slightly behind him on either side and dressed to match—some sort of black and silver uniform with purple visors. Junior watched as they approached the counter, straightening his tie.
"We're closed. Read the sign on the door." Junior asked. The leader of their group reached the bar, while the other two glanced at each other.
"The sign? What sign?" The red-haired one asked, pretty clearly female based on her outfit—though, king fucking knew, Junior had screwed that one up before.
"Out front, on the door." Junior said. Then he thought for a moment, and scowled. "How many times do I have to tell Mitch to put up the goddamned… look, I'm not serving you anything, and as you can see the dance floor isn't exactly open for business." He waved at the dance floor, which despite their best efforts was still largely covered in slivers of glass and cracked in a jagged webwork beyond repair. They were going to have to get the floor replaced, even if Junior had to sell his fucking teeth to do it.
"So I see." The leader said, his voice strangely metallic. It was unnerving, Junior had to admit, even if the outfit was more than a little loony. "We aren't here to dance."
"Well, this isn't one of Fontaine's poorhouses, so…" Junior waved towards the door.
"We're here for information. I have it on good authority that you provide it." The masked man asked. Junior narrowed his eyes,
"Due to a recent… incident… I'm going to have to insist on some payment up front. Also, a name." Junior said. The masked man nodded.
"I am Zero. As for the money, that can be arranged. I can give you two hundred lien, and more if you have the information we're looking for. Seem fair?" Zero asked. Two hundred… well, it wouldn't pay the bills, but at least it could get them some rum. Junior was going to ignore the fact that the name was obviously fake.
"Alright. Hand it over, and we'll talk." Junior said. He watched Zero reach into his cloak, pulling out the appropriate number of notes and sliding them across the bar. Junior picked them up and put them into his pocket.
"So, what do you want to know?" Junior said.
"Several things. First off, I'd like to know more about Roman Torchwick. I believe you had a transaction with the man, not too long ago?" Zero said. Junior flinched.
"That guy? What makes you think I had anything to do with him?" Junior tried.
"You're Junior Xiong, owner of this bar and also of the Black Paw Private Detective agency. He tried to rob a dust store with the help of some of your 'detectives', two weeks ago. They were, of course, detained." Zero said. Junior crossed his arms.
"If they were working with him, they were acting on their own. We don't all have the luxury of employing honest employees, and the job attracts the occasional criminal. Especially in this neighborhood." Junior said. It was an easy, necessary, practiced lie. Zero chuckled.
"Indeed. Well, I would still like to know more about this man who you have most certainly never met. Background, known haunts, et cetera…" Zero said. Junior shrugged. After the shit Torchwick had pulled, and was continuing to pull, it was almost common knowledge anyway.
"Well, he's Roman Torchwick. Guy's been around for a few years now—you want something stolen, he'll do it. He used to hole up somewhere down near Driftwood, though I've heard he isn't around there much these days. Only started stealing dust about a month back, but he's been on a spree. Hit maybe half the small shops in the whole damn city." Junior said. He eyed the goons carefully; the brown-haired guy seemed a bit stiff, twitchier than one would expect from a practiced enforcer. The girl was almost too relaxed, taking in the surroundings with her hands tucked into her pockets. Both were armed.
"Right. He worked independently? Any connections?" Zero asked.
"Not that I know of. Other than his little shadow, I should say—he's got a partner he's been working with ever since he started to make a name around here. Short girl, pink and brown hair, carries around an umbrella." Junior said. He still couldn't get a read off of the masked man; Zero seemed poised, not quite relaxed. The helmet didn't exactly leave much of an opportunity to read his expressions.
"Really. She sounds like an odd choice of partner for a thief; a distraction? Scurries through vents?" Zero said. Junior looked pointedly at his coat pocket. The man sighed, reached in, and forked over another fifty. It'd do.
"Actually, she's the muscle, if you believe it. Guy's clever, quick, talks a good talk, damn useful when planning a job, but he's nothing special in a fight. The girl—goes by Neo Politan, I've heard—is a demon. Folk who've tried to mess with Torchwick, don't try twice. Way I heard it, she once went toe-to-toe with a whole eight-man gang that tried to work over her boy for some jewelry he'd taken, and the ones that lived were torn up pretty bad." Junior said.
"Fascinating. Any speculations as to what they're up to now? Where they're taking all this dust?" Zero asked. Junior raised his eyebrows—guy was paying lien for speculation? He glanced down at the coat pocket again. Wordlessly, the man reached in and handed over another fifty.
"Well, I'm not really sure. I'd say they're selling it, but they've been leaving the money in the shops. Could be sending it to one of the big syndicates down in Smoketown, either would save a lot of money in their warchest paying a thief to steal dust for them instead of buying it. As for where they're putting it all, no idea, but he's taken a lot of it already—my guess would be a warehouse, so probably somewhere industrial or somewhere near the port." Junior said.
"Hmm." Zero said, bringing a hand to his… chin? The chin of the mask, at least. "Not much, but it's a start… which syndicates would you suspect, hypothetically speaking?"
Junior stared at the man for a moment. Rule #1 of dealing in information was, never ask why. Whatever they're up to, you don't wanna know. But this guy… the excitement of potential cash was fading, and his instincts were telling him something was off. Very, very off. Junior folded his arms.
"Look, this here's a legitimate establishment. I don't want any trouble, least of all from whoever's pulling in all that firepower." Junior said. The man paused, and didn't speak for a long moment. Then he shrugged.
"Very well. But, before I go…" he flicked his wrist, and Junior tensed, reaching for the dagger in his belt—but in his hand was a black card, which Zero passed to Junior. On its face was a scroll number, printed in stark silver letters, and nothing else. Junior stared down at it for a moment, squinting. It was either intimidating or excessively, hilariously melodramatic, and Junior could not decide which. Possibly both.
"I've heard that you're a man who can be trusted. Unusual, I must say, in your line of work. The kind of person we'd like to work with. The organization I represent would value your expertise and the work your people do to a very lucrative degree… so. If you ever change your mind, do not hesitate to call. We will make it worth your while." Zero said. Junior stared at him as he sketched a quick, half-mocking bow, before sweeping off towards the door. His goons froze, seeming surprised and unsure for just a moment before they turned to follow. Junior scratched his beard and frowned. Then the back door opened.
"Someone crashed the car." Melanie Malachite said, throwing the car key towards the key bucket and missing by several feet. They clattered across the floor, sliding right past the tips of Junior's shoes.
"Fuck." Junior said.
"Oz. Glynda. This is an… unexpected surprise. It's good to see you." Ironwood said, smiling. Glynda felt a little shock at the sight of his face, and allowed herself to smile back. It had been too long.
"James. It's good to see you, too." Ozpin said, smiling as well. "We must find time to speak together more often in the future. How are you, old friend?" He asked. James' smile grew more strained.
"It is… difficult, to find the time. It's honestly lucky you called today—I was supposed to meet with a representative from REVOCS ten minutes ago about this months' shipment, but they've been delayed by a rogue blizzard. What can I do for you?" He asked. The sight of him then reminded Glynda of the first day she'd seen the man in that uniform, how perfectly it had seemed to suit him. He'd come a long way since they'd been students.
"Well, out of respect for your time, I'll skip the pleasantries. We've received some information regarding our friends across the sea, and wanted to pass it on." Ozpin said. Ironwood focused in, eyes earnest and concerned in a way Glynda found all too familiar—and suddenly she felt an old pang in her heart, and had to look away.
"What have you learned? From where?" Ironwood asked. Ozpin frowned, taking a quick sip of hot chocolate.
"The empire has surpassed its last obstacle on its own continent. It is now looking elsewhere for expansion—according to our source, if nothing is done, we can expect another war within the next ten years." Ozpin said. Ironwood frowned, but nodded.
"This matches the reports Parangosky's been sending my way. I told you then what I tell you now, this was never over, Oz. Just delayed." Ironwood said, and Glynda caught a faint hit of I-told-you-so that made her want to smack the man.
"If we're going to repeat ourselves, I will tell you again, that is not acceptable. This is madness." Ozpin said. Ironwood's eyes narrowed.
"Let's not start this... it's reassuring that you're taking this seriously. I'll admit I was worried after I heard you actually let one of their princes into Beacon—this is progress, at least." Ironwood said. Ozpin was silent for a moment, and Ironwood's eyes narrowed.
"The source of this information… tell me it wasn't the prince, Ozpin." Ironwood said. Ozpin was silent.
"Damn it. Damn it. I can't believe I'm hearing this." Ironwood said, glaring.
"He seemed sincere. As sincere as he could be, given the circumstances." Ozpin said.
"Are you insane? After everything we—" Ironwood began. Then he took a moment, and took a breath. "Forget it. If this is what it takes for you to see what's coming, alright. I don't want to argue with you. I want your support." Ironwood said.
"You have it." Ozpin replied.
"Meaningful support, Oz! Soldiers, supplies, a treaty, something! Anything more than words! If you put it forward, I'm sure the Vale council would—" Ironwood began.
"No. I do not command the fate of Vale. I will not tip the scales, and I will not commit my charges to a war that has not even begun." Ozpin said back, setting down his mug. Ironwood flushed crimson at that.
"This is just like last time. You're going to sit back in your valley, again, and twiddle your thumbs, and do nothing while we fight for our lives—" Ironwood began. Glynda couldn't take it.
"Nothing? Nothing, James? Excuse me?" Glynda said. Ironwood blinked. Perhaps he'd forgotten she was there.
"Glynda—" He tried.
"Who was it that crossed the sea to cover your back? Who provided the food when your supplies ran low? Who kept your camps clear of Grimm, who protected and cared for the refugees so you didn't have to, oh great conquering hero?" Glynda demanded, pointing at his face.
"I didn't mean that you—that wasn't—" Ironwood began.
"Wasn't what, James? Wasn't enough? The huntsmen we lost, that I lost, defending your lines from Grimm?" Glynda asked.
"You could have done more." Ironwood said, shame and fury burning in his eyes, shaking at the back of his throat. Glynda glared at him, the horrors of ten years ago rushing through her mind as she tried to bore a hole through his stupid, bullish face with her eyes. Suddenly it was too much—she shook her head, crossed her arms, and looked away.
"Perhaps." Ozpin said, quietly. "But war is evil, James. You know this as well as I. You of all people must understand why it is, even now, that I cannot give up hope on peace."
"You would sit back and watch them kill all of us. Kill our people." Ironwood said.
"No." Ozpin replied. "If that is what you think, we have truly been apart too long."
"Well…" Ironwood fell silent for a long moment. Glynda still couldn't look at him. "I… I'm sorry. I didn't mean to bring this up again. Thank you for contacting me. I hope you're both living well, and happily." Ironwood said.
"Very happily." Glynda said, just to drive the dagger in a little. She didn't see him flinch, but she could almost hear it in the pause. It didn't make her feel any better though.
"…well. Thank you both. I'll be in touch, especially with the Vytal Festival coming up, but I've got a meeting soon. I'll, see you both later, then." Ironwood said.
"Farewell. Good luck to you." Ozpin said, sincerely, before ending the call. He was quiet for a moment.
"Are you alright, Glynda?" He asked, softly.
"Yes." She lied, before shaking her head. "I… may need a moment. It's been so long, I'd forgotten what he was like."
"Take a break, for as long as you need one. In the meantime, I have a few calls to make." Ozpin said.
They'd been walking back out down the street, cautious as ever. Neither he nor Kallen had said a word, after that strange exchange. Suzaku was working up the will to ask... he wasn't quite sure what. What they were doing, how torchwick fit into things, how and why Lelouch had had ridiculously ominous business cards made... Suzaku was still trying to figure out what to say as they made their way back down the shadowed path they'd come from.
Suddenly Lelouch stopped, putting up a hand. Suzaku tensed, glancing at their surroundings. It seemed like a pretty standard side street; dingy, with metal bars on most of the darkened windows of the huddled brick buildings that lined its sidewalk, a single street lamp glowing overhead. Outside of its pool of light, however… in the quiet, Suzaku heard cloth rustle from nearby.
"Well, well, well. Got a sharp pair of ears on you, don't ya." A male voice, gravelly and malicious, called out behind them. Suzaku twisted to stare at him, pulling the batons from his belt and falling into a ready stance. It was difficult to make out his features exactly; he was tall, bulky, with a close-cropped beard, slightly-too small nose, and a nasty grin. This was along with the gun in his hand, which was currently pointed at—
"Huh, you're a cutie. What's a gorgeous little thing like yourself doing on the wrong side of town?" The man continued, aiming both weapon and words at Kallen. The words drove a shard of fury into Suzaku's mind, that he quickly worked to bury.
"Fuck off, creep." Kallen snarled back, knives drawn.
"Ooh, fiesty." The man said, grinning wider. Suzaku wouldn't have minded relieving him of some of those teeth.
"We aren't here for any trouble." Lelouch said, tone cold but calm.
"Trouble? There won't be any trouble, if you play nice." The man said.
Suzaku heard more rustling, and was alarmed to notice more men emerging from the dark. In a moment, they were surrounded—Suzaku counted eight, four blocking both sides of the street. All were armed; four with shotguns, four with automatic rifles. Bad odds, if it had been just Suzaku, and for once he missed the weight of Kusanagi at his side.
"An ambush. How quaint." Lelouch said, drawing his pistol. The ringleader narrowed his eyes.
"This is my turf, punk. I don't know what you think you're gonna do with that thing, but let me tell ya, it aint gonna work. You got two choices—you pay the toll, or you die." The ringleader said.
"Well. What's the toll?" Lelouch asked.
"Everything you've got on you…" The ringleader paused, flashing a grin at Kallen. "And the girl. You two can go."
Suzaku felt anger blaze through his veins as he tightened his grip on the handles of his batons. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Kallen's face blanch white, glancing at Lelouch.
"Counteroffer. Leave now, and I won't rip out your throat." Lelouch replied, still quite calm.
"Funny." The ringleader said.
"Is it?" Lelouch said, then shot him in the stomach.
For a moment, the gang stared at their leader, who in turn stared with mouth hanging open at the growing stain on his white shirt, before crumpling to the ground. Then they opened fire.
Suzaku gritted his teeth, leaping right and kicking a screaming gust of wind at the knees of two shotgun-wielding mooks, blasting both of them off of their feet. A scrawny-looking rifleman opened fire, blasting the spot where Lelouch had been a moment ago.
Kallen had leapt towards the four behind them, tanking two shotgun blasts on her aura before her fist smashed into the jaw of one of the shotgunners. The bone crumpled under her hand with a sickening crunch as the man toppled to the ground.
Lelouch had dodged right, flaring his cape as another rifleman fired—the shot went wide and slashed a hole through the arm of one of the gunmen on the opposite side, who let out a scream and fired off a shot into the air. Then Lelouch leapt at the rifleman, latching an arm around his throat and pulling him around to take the spray of gunfire from his two fellows as Lelouch fired back.
Suzaku leapt over two of the shotgunmen, smashing into both of their heads with his batons at the height of his arc. Both crumpled to the ground as he landed, scanning for additional enemies. Kallen had beaten down the last of them, who lay motionless.
Spirits, Suzaku hated the smell of blood. He stared at his other two friends. Kallen stared back, eyes wide and panicked—Lelouch was making his way towards the leader, who was moaning and clutching at the hole in his chest in an attempt to stop the blood flow. The man stared up at Lelouch, eyes wide, and Suzaku realized with shock what was about to happen. Lelouch stopped for a moment, mask reflecting only the terrified face and the pale orange light.
"I warned you." He said, and in a single swipe of his dagger, ripped through the man's neck. The ringleader's scream died in a ragged gurgle. Suzaku stared at Lelouch, or whatever demon the person under the mask had become.
"You killed him. In cold blood." Suzaku said. Lelouch turned back to look at him, mask shining.
"Yes." Lelouch replied, waiting. And suddenly Suzaku felt a sure of anger.
"You just, like it was nothing—! You promised me, Lelouch, that this wasn't vigilantism, that we would leave the law up to the police." Suzaku said, low and angry.
"He would have hurt others." Lelouch said, softly. He reached up and wiped some of the blood spatter off of the mask with his sleeve. Then he turned away, crouching down and starting to go through the man's pockets. Suzaku wanted to scream at him.
"He was on the ground, bleeding out, and defenseless. He would have died anyway. You didn't need to do that." Suzaku replied, fighting to keep his voice controlled.
"Seriously, Suzaku?" Kallen said, and Suzaku saw a deep anger in her eyes, under the visor. "He was a fucking rapist."
"I don't care about his life. I care about ours." Suzaku said. "Maybe this isn't something a terrorist would understand, but killing defenseless people because you can, crosses a line."
"What the hell is that supposed to mean? You and your stupid fucking moral high ground—" Kallen spat. "Men like him are monsters. I can't believe I'm standing here listening to you defend him."
"Listen, Kallen, this isn't our choice. We aren't judges or executioners. We don't get to just decide these things. We should have left him to be taken in by the police, or die on his own." Suzaku said. Kallen glared at him.
"An idealist to the core…" A lilting voice said, and Suzaku froze, suddenly noticing C.C. standing over Lelouch's shoulder.
"You. You've been here all along." Suzaku said.
"Of course. I couldn't just let our prickly prince out of my sight, he has such a habit of getting into trouble." C.C. said, smiling back. Suzaku noticed she was standing in a small pool of blood next to one of the corpses, and felt like vomiting again.
"I just… I hate this. I hate this so much." Suzaku said, voice shaking. His hands… they shook too. He could see the blood on them. He could feel it, real and imaginary, squelching between his fingers. He felt the fear and the emptiness and the shame rising up again to wrap their cold hands around his throat. Kallen's glare softened a little.
"We need to leave, now, before the cops show up. We've already been here too long." Kallen said.
"I'm not sure they're coming." Lelouch said.
"After all those gunshots? I'm surprised they aren't already here." Kallen said.
"From what little I know, this is a poor part of town and they have other things to do. Same principle as Britannian police in the ghettos of Nihon. We shouldn't expect… hm." Lelouch froze. Then he rose to his feet, and turned, something in his hands. The light from the streetlamp glinted strangely off of his mask.
"Well…?" Suzaku said.
"I take it back. It looks like the police are already here." Lelouch said, showing them the thing he'd fished out of the ringleader's pocked—the brightly shining, unmistakable shield-shaped gold of a VPD badge.
It was a dingy bar like any other, this part of western Mistral—the land of Yuenan, they called it. A big, windy place, full of grass. Once it had been a vast ocean of shifting green, the road for a dozen kinds of nomad—great peoples of import, with legendary tales and traditions of their own. Some parts, it still was. Others, it was dusty towns full of people with nowhere better to be, living out their lives and sometimes going to dingy bars. Some of these bars had Television sets, part of the massive CCT network, and could get any channel… even the evening news from the city of Vale, if for some bizarre reason this was requested.
"…and this just in, Cyril. We are hearing now, that Lieutenant Gregory Hill of the VPD has been found dead, apparently killed during an incident of gang violence in central Vale. This is the first death outside of the harbor region, and the first police officer killed in the fighting, which has already resulted in the deaths of two dozen gang members. Could this be an escalation of the conflict? Could other neighborhoods be in danger? Stay tuned for more on this tomorrow at 9…"
A scruffy-looking crow squinted up at the screen, frowned, and set down his glass.