|"The Good Mark: Clues Uncovered"|
|What: Mandrake discovers a clue amongst the fake-Huntress' crossbow bolts, and he and his friend start to plan.|
Standing with his arms crossed across his chest as he looks over a wide array of arrows which are laid out over the table. Breathing in deeply, Mandrake stares at the arrows, his eyes noticing each and every detail. Next to him, is Devil, who has his two paws on the table, his wolf eyes looking at the arrows also. Mandrake and him look at each in unison. Mandrake flashes the Wolf a smile, before looking back at the arrows. "Hmmmmmmm....so unusual."
Devil lays on the bed in the converted office, watching the magician--then his ears prick and he huffs softly, getting to his feet and hopping to the floor to start heading out of the room.
In a moment, hoof beats can be heard, a horse ridden at a full gallop through the abandoned subway tunnels. The Phantom steers Hero into her little stall in another part of the complex, sliding off her saddle. He's got his Very Not Happy look on his face, though he takes the time to start taking off Hero's tack. He's done for the day, so there's no need to make her wear it any longer than necessary.
By the time Devil appears, The Phantom is putting the saddle away, and he looks at the wolf with an insincere smile. "What? Oh, okay. I'll be there in a minute, okay? Let me just make sure Hero's got fresh food." He pulls over a bundle of special feed, imported through Claremont Riding Academy and pats Hero's cheek, then goes to follow Devil back to Mandrake.
The sounds of rustling in the background, distract Mandrake from his thoughts. He tries once more to stare at the arrows, but after a moment, closes his eyes as he uncrosses his arms. He gathers himself and wraps his torso around the doorway of the office, peering towards Kit. "Ho! Kit! Please let me up you! I would like to be a good house guest! It is only proper." He looks at Kit for a long moment, studying him. "You ok, chap?"
When the Phantom enters Mandrake's room, he crosses his arms over his chest, glancing at Mandrake then looking to the bolts. "Hmm?" he asks, looking back to the man. "Mmm. Huntress had that--man--temporarily taken into custody by the police, but they can't hold him long without evidence. They'll question him, but--I have a feeling he'll be back on the street; tomorrow, maybe the day after." A beat's pause, then he nods to the bolts on the makeshift table. "What about this? Making any headway?"
Mandrake The Magician looks at Kit for a long moment, "What man?" He asks, his brow furrowing. " THE Man with Mark?" He pauses, his hands waving at the arrows. "Those can wait for a moment."
"Yes, him," replies the Phantom, keeping his attention on the bolts for the moment. "Huntress had him taken into custody, but I don't think he'll stay there long. And every moment I can't figure this out means another moment closer to that jerk being released to walk the streets again." He unfolds his right arm so he can rub his jaw in a rather displeased manner, and he finally looks back to Mandrake. "And I'm afraid that whoever his friends are, they're powerful enough to make sure he does get out, regardless of whatever evidence the police have," he says a bit more softly, through barely-moving lips.
Mandrake The Magician curses silently to himself, something in Latin he picked up from the Huntress. "Ahh, so he knows you have allies that are to him now." He strokes his chin. "The game is afoot. I don't suppose we could have lurked in the Shadows forever." He sighs. "She is impulsive, reckless, dangerous, vulgar..." He smiles at Kit. "I like her." He chuckles as he looks at the arrows. "Perhaps, we can use this to our advantage, maybe the clues on who bails him might lead us further into the Rabbit's hole." He smiles. "I am also not sure, the term 'friends' is apt. It seems to me, the term employers might be more fitting." He points to the arrows. "And sometimes employers get upset with their employees..."
That makes the Phantom smile, if a very tiny one that only really appears at one corner of his mouth, and rather briefly at that. Still, it's there. "Actually, she placed an anonymous phone call. I wasn't there to stop her, after all..." Which was more or less the idea. If he werethere, he'd be obligated to stop her, but--he wasn't. On purpose.
"Though I do agree with the 'employers' bit, incidentally. "The question is what we're going to do in the meantime. We only have so much time before he's out, and I can't help but think they'll use him to get to you again. What have you learned from these crossbow bolts?"
Mandrake The Magician smiles slyly at Kit. "Oh, and smart..." He shrugs as he motions towards the crossbow bolts. "They are numbered...except some of the numbers are missing. 8, 16, 24..." He shakes his head, "A pattern..." He rubs his jaw. "I do not like what that means..." He looks at Kit. "The attacker, Faux-Huntress, told her employer how bolts she used...six." He frowns. "People who concern themselves with numerology are not to be trifled with. Numbers have power."
"At the end of the day, the only power that really exists are those the audience invests," says the Phantom, arching a brow at Mandrake. "I'd've thought we both learned that one by now." That smile returns, though it's just as small and just as brief. He looks back to the bolts, then, thinking. An illusionist and a man using an ancient African god as a proverbial cloak; all because the audience invests the trick and the costume with power. "Mmm. Do you have a piece of paper and a pen? And exactly what numbers are missing--rather, exactly what numbers do you have?" he asks suddenly, that thoughtful look staying on his face.
Chuckling at Kit, Mandrake continues. "So you do listen? I confused when you put on the headphones and walk out of the room." He finishes with an impish smile. Reaching under his hat, he pulls out pen and paper. "Of course I do, never know when I need to sign something for a fan. Would you like me to make this out to The Phantom...orr...." He laughs. "I kid, I kid." He hands his friend the pen and paper. "I have. 1 2 3 5 6 7 9 10 11 13 14 15 17 18 19 21 22 23 25 26 27 29 30 31 33. Missing 8, 16, 20, 24, 28. I believe."
Taking the paper and the pen, the Phantom leans on the table and starts jotting down the numbers as Mandrake says them. He writes the missing numbers below, then murmurs, "You're also missing the number four." That's said quietly, almost distractedly, as he taps his chin with the end of the pen. "Four, eight, twelve, sixteen, twenty, twenty-four, twenty-eight--and thirty-two, actually." Pursing his lips in thought, he scrawls a line beneath what was already written, and re-structures the numbers.
1 2 3
5 6 7
9 10 11
13 14 15
17 18 19
21 22 23
25 26 27
29 30 31
"Hmmm. There's got to be a pattern here..." he muses aloud, eyes narrowing behind the mask, evidenced by the way his brows knit above it. There's got to be a pattern, but he's just not seeing it.
Mandrake The Magician looks at Kit. "Am I now? A verrrrrryyyyy unlucky number. Never say it out loud..." He smiles at his friends. "Ho! Ho! Ho! I am just kidding you, I just missed it." He chuckles as he looks over the numbers on the paper. "Magic isn't Math..." He offers sheepishly. "But that is why you are getting all of that learning." He smiles as he moves his head around the sheet, looking at it from different angles. "AHHHH....no wait..." He continues to look at the numbers. "There has to be a reason. And 12 makes 8..." He rubs his jaw. "8...8...8...8". He looks at Kit. "The 8?"
"The who?" replies the Phantom, arching a brow and looking up to Mandrake. He quickly scans his memory palace, but there's no mention of an 'eight' used as a proper noun. Arching that brow higher, he looks back ot the paper and counts, tapping the tip of the pen at the end of each line of numbers. When he's done, he stands tall again and rubs his cheek. "Well, eight numbers missing, all multiples of four--so whatever this 'Eight' of yours is, and if this is them, they went to some lengths to hide their calling card." The pen gets set on the table, and the Phantom looks back to his friend once more. "Do I want to know about this 'Eight', then?" he asks quietly, letting his friend decline if he wishes. The Phantom would, of course, understand.
Closing his eyes, Mandrake begins speaking. "8 is only in the lore of the old world." He continues to keep his eyes closed. "My Mas..Mentor, told me of them before I was bani...asked to leave." He flinches for a moment, his eyes still closed as he continues. "The Illuminati, the Masons, the Knights Templar, The Warriors of Ronin are all groups that have patterned themselves after the 8, even if they don't realize it." He lowers his head, his eyes still closed. "I...never..met them. Only the stories My Mas..Mentor told me." He lets out a sigh. "Once, before I left...he let his guard down, he let me into his mind. His only thought was of 8 Warriors in Armor, around a Round Table, their faces hidden by the shadows from the candles that lit the room." His eyes, fly open, no longer needing to concentrate as he was able to conjure the image again. "8 run the universe...or at least attempt too. According to legend at least. Nothing, is beyond their notice, not even the hidden hands of God himself. Or so the scrolls say." Mandrake, pauses. "I never told you, because I thought...it was a test for me only...The one thing I could do, so I could be let back in. Find the 8 and defeat them."
Silently listening, the Phantom keeps those blank lenses of the mask pointed at Mandrake. How well he understands--at least, as much as he can, of course. There is so much more history to the world than most people realize. When Mandrake is through, the Phantom folds his arms over his chest again and takes a deep breath, exhaling it before speaking. Finally, he says, "Okay, then. Looks like your test has come. I hope you've studied well, old friend. Something tells me there's a lot more riding on this than just a passing grade."
A beat's pause. "You must have really annoyed them some how, or your mentor. They're going through a lot of trouble to get to you. I didn't want to say this before, but now--when you were attacked? I don't think you were really supposed to die. If so, they'd have sent more than one woman with a crossbow..." He can't help but think Mandrake was /meant/ to overcome that attack the other night, though he can't for the life of him figure out why.
Smiling at his friend, "No, I have come to the same conclusion. Lothar's wound was too clean. No organs damaged. And my hat, that should have been my skull." He laughs sadly, "Plus, she gave me more than ample opportunity to escape." He chuckles. "I wonder if it wasn't a test, how long until she took me out. That would explain why they wanted to know the number." He shakes his head and shrugs. "My test." He shakes his head wearily. "Our test, my friend. 8 could be exploring our network of Friends."
"Mmm, there's a happy thought," mutters the Phantom, looking down to the crossbow bolts. "They're already going after you and me; Huntress was nearly--well, I can't say attacked, but she was nearly accosted. The question is what they're after; why they're targeting us. It--it feels like a ploy, like part of some plan, but I just--I can't figure out what it could be..." Eyes narrow behind the mask as he thinks, his body tense with the notion that anyone he's ever known may be a target; thankfully most of the people he knows can take care of themselves, but--still...
Mandrake The Magician lifts an eye at Kit. "Accosted? By...HIM." Mandrake breathes deeply. "What if..." He shakes his head. "Sleight of Hand? Everything seems to be pointing one way, that we are the target...but what if they are after something else? Something they either need us not to do, or maybe something they want us to do..." He rubs his jaw. "But this is how you test a network, attack various points and see how it responds..."
Looking back to his friend, the Phantom is silent a moment, mulling that over. "That's--a very good point," he says after a moment, cupping his jaw. "I guess--I guess the question is how well you really did study up. Think you're ready to take these Eight on, then?" That's asked quietly, as if he already knows the answer. And he might, really--one is never really ready for these sorts of challenges. One may know they're coming from birth, even, but there's really no way to truly prepare.
Mandrake The Magician reaches out and clasps his friend shoulder. "My friend, you have taught me that it doesn't matter if you are ready or not. We serve a higher calling." He smiles. "We do what we must, because we can." He smiles wider. "Whatever the 8 have in mind, we won't know their move, until they make them. But whatever they have in mind, if they are behind this, is already in motion." He chuckles. "The Stage is Set."
"That it is," agrees the Phantom, keeping those blank lenses pointed at his friend. "But the question, now, is how we can set the stage to our liking. Right now, it's their game--they're the ones calling the shots, playing puppeteer and making us run around. And the worst part is they're not done..." Who knows what they're going to do next? Which is one of the most annoying parts; right now, all they can do is run around, trying to rectify the damage after it's been done.
"My friend, rearranging the stage is sometimes impossible. After all, a showman doesn't always get his venue. But Improvising, doing the unexpected. That is the trick." He smiles. "The Deck is always stacked against the Hero." He offers his friend a shrug. "Right now, we can study, plan, work together." He smiles. "Information moves two ways. Each move they make, tells us more. We just need to capitalize."
"Okay, so how do we capitalize on the information they're giving us?" asks the Phantom, tilting his head a bit to the side. "These is your territory, old friend. What do you think we should do? And we really need to talk to Huntress..." He presses his lips together, there, thinking of how much of a pain this is becoming for--pretty much everyone. And Rain--she hasn't been around in a few days; hopefully she's just off on some magical quest-thing or another. The alternative is--unthinkable.
Mandrake The Magician smiles to Kit. "Bait a trap." He spreads his arms. "It is like chess, they are probing us...we need to probe theirs back." He strokes his chin. "Two things we know. They are after the four of us, and this man is involved. He is our bait."
A long exhalation then the Phantom says, "Well, as long as he's our bait, and not theirs..." He rubs his face again, trying to not think of various expletives that fit the situations nearly perfectly. "Okay--whatever you do, just--don't tell me, yet. I still--don't know what to do about that yahoo. Which, I'm now willing to bet, is the point. Keep me away from the game, keep me away from you and Huntress..." That thought makes his teeth grit again, just barely visible behind lips mere millimeters apart.
Mandrake The Magician smiles at his friend. "You know, there are ways to forget..." He waves his hands absently in front of The Phantom. "But your point is understand." He smiles at Kit. "Whatever you do, friend...remember, I will always be your friend and I will understand if you have to choose...I am at peace with this world."
"No," growls the Phantom, for the first time in a very long time becoming rather stern with his friend. "I won't forget, and I won't choose. Not like that. So don't think you're going to get away with that bull." He was, for just a bare fraction of a second, half-tempted to complete that and make it the epithet most people would use today. That's how strongly he feels that such talk is, put nicely, utter nonsense.
Mandrake The Magician stares at his friend, his jovial voice drops for a moment. "Kit. It was wrong of me to ask. But the 8 will test our resolve, and for the greater good a choice will have to be made." He looks at his friend. "But Do not mistake my words, I have plenty more tricks I have to perform, and plenty of more shows. But, you can not show the 8 weakness, you can not flinch when they come. Just be resolute in your choices."
Setting his jaw, the Phantom just nods once, then looks back to the bolts on the makeshift table. For a moment he's silent, then he murmurs, "We won't show them weakness. Just because we may be backed into a corner, that doesn't mean we aren't dangerous. A tiger is most lethal when he has nowhere to run, after all." He shifts his arms a bit, tightening their fold across his chest. "I think you'll want to speak to the Huntress soon. She's got to have a--a plan of attack, a way you really can fight back against these--jerks." That's said quietly, as he stares at the bolts.
Mandrake The Magician move next to Kit, looking at the Bolts. "I have a scheduled call with the Huntress." He rests a hand on his friend shoulder, patting it a couple of times. "No weakness." He reaffirms as his familiar stage persona comes back to his face. He pulls out one Bolt, the one who killed his Rabbit. He puts it up, under his coat. "Tea?" He asks warmly.
A brow arches over the mask as the Phantom watches Mandrake put that bolt into his pocket, though he doesn't ask. He wants to, but knows he probably shouldn't. "Yeah, that's a good idea," he says, nodding once. "I'll go get it. I've still got that jasmine tea." He starts to turn, then pauses and turns back to Mandrake. He puts his own hand on the man's shoulder, squeezing once. "They messed with the wrong men," he says firmly, then turns to head out of Mandrake's room to go prepare the tea.
Mandrake The Magician smiles to himself, giving Kit a moment to walk out first. "Yes, they did." He says quietly to no one in particular. He then pivots and goes to follow Kit out of the room, best to leave the space and let the energy drain from the room.