Whispers

 
 
Chapter Eight: Le Repaire du Diable

"The Devil's Lair"

- You must like playing with cards. -
- I like Solitaire ok... that is, unless I got someone to play with. -

Female Cashier and Gambit, X-Men (TV), 1992

-
"Welcome to la belle ville de la Nouvelle-Orléans," Mercy said with a smile that didn't quite reach her eyes.

Logan was surprised when he saw his address was a tiny hole-in-the-wall café, but had settled into a back corner table with a tall black coffee until this petite blonde stole the seat across from him.

"You're Logan, non?" she asked, tilting her head in question.

He took a sip of coffee. "Yeah."

"Then come." She stood and he stood with her. "The Guildmaster will see you now."

Guildmaster, huh? Logan wasn't really sure he liked the sound of that. Guildmaster of what?

: : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : :

Remy was playing with fire. He knew it even when he invited Chere to sit in front of him as they worked the game over together. She could probably play without him, but there were things he wanted to know. And he simply couldn't resist the opportunity to be close to the one woman he'd wanted for more than a single night since Bella Donna.

He settled Chere close to him and wrapped his arms around her to reach the computer. She didn't object and he enjoyed her soft scent mixed with his soap as she leaned back into him slightly.

They studied the computer screen as the opening deal was played out before them. The conversation was filled in on the left side at the bottom. The names of the participants occupied the right.

Sunfire. Blindspot. Abyss. Silver Samurai. Dominion. Rax. Avalanche.

Others were joining virtually like he and Chere were doing. As per usual, those names were not revealed, merely numbered. Remy recognized each name and knew that most couldn't take him alone. The Yakuza and Blindspot were exceptions. But what else was new?

He watched as Chere's cards appeared on the screen. The Ace of Spades. Twice. The ten of Diamonds. The Queen of Diamonds. The eight of Clubs.

It was doubledecked.

He studied the numbers. "You got this, Chere?"

She nodded, her hair brushing his chin.

He tugged her closer, allowing the heat of her body to ward off the chill that abruptly seized him. A double deck meant high participation. Four hands going meant this was beyond blood. He glanced down the names on the sidebar again.

"You better have this, Chere," he said.

She didn't move, merely weighing her cards and her decision. Finally, she spoke. "I've played this before."

He closed his eyes, not wanting to look at the statement. Her memories may not have been present, but the moments when she became whoever she had been still managed to give him pause.

She was a mercenary.

She'd played the game before.

Remy opened his eyes and watched her trail one nail across the conversation box. Nothing had been typed there yet. No one could play until it had.

: : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : :

Jubilee wasn't sure whether she wanted to be hiding behind Betsy or not, but since she wasn't given much of a choice, she decided to peek her head slightly around and watch the unfolding drama.

"Who are you?" Betsy demanded of the black-haired woman. Her arms were held up in some sort of martial arts gesture that Jubilee was just dying to know.

They never taught her the good stuff.

The woman on the bluff cocked one eyebrow above her red lenses. The gun remained trained on them.

"Betsy Braddock, I presume?" The voice was cold, the tone knowing, laced with venomous threat.

Betsy didn't respond.

"Your accent betrays you," the woman said very calmly.

Jubilee shivered.

Betsy was British originally. It was only through some unexplained event that the former assassin looked Asian. Of course, they never told Jubilee these things.

"Who are you?" Betsy repeated through gritted teeth.

"LeBeau." The woman stared down at them, unmoving. "You will come with me."

"Over my dead body." Two knives formed of some sort of purplish energy materialized in Betsy's hands.

Jubilee tucked herself a little more behind her partner. This was going to go down bad. She suddenly realized just what was happening. This was really, really bad.

LeBeau smiled faintly, and suddenly, Betsy was reeling backwards and nearly collapsing into Jubilee with a sharp cry. LeBeau leaned forward.

"We can do this one of two ways, Psylocke," she said with a cold, grim smile on her hardened face. "The easy way or the hard way."

Jubilee felt a cold chill run down her spine. She gripped Betsy's shoulders from behind. "Betsy?" she whispered.

The woman gritted her teeth in pain. "Just stay behind me. She's a telepath."

: : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : :

Logan followed Mercy into a waiting vehicle just outside the café and accepted her absently offered tidbits about the city they were passing through. He wasn't really interested, but he stored away the snippets in case he would find some use for them later.

"So how did you meet LeBeau?" Mercy suddenly asked.

Logan paused, sizing her up. The question was offhand, asked in the same manner the tour had been given. He had a feeling it was anything but casual.

"Hudson," he replied.

She merely nodded. "Always them, it seems," she mused. "LeBeau is the family name out here. Try not to be confused."

With that comment, the car came to a stop outside of a ancient church-like structure in the heart of one of the neighborhoods she had been rambling on about.

Mercy got out of the car, waited a moment for him to follow, then waved the driver on. She walked up the stone steps to the stone building. He peered in the cloudy stain-glassed windows.

"Nice digs," he said drily.

She turned that same almost-smile on him again and opened the heavy door. "I suppose you could say that."

He felt like he was stepping back into another century.

Mercy's heels clicked on the polished wooden floors until she stepped onto a rich, almost velvet carpeting that ran down the length of the hall. The walls were paneled with hand-carved mahogany, and light streamed in through the tall windows. The ceilings vaulted in intricate patterns. Gold fixtures and priceless paintings accented the expensively decorated great hall.

"Not exactly strapped for cash, are you?" He narrowed suspicious eyes at Mercy.

She stopped, glanced over her shoulder at him. "The Guildmaster will see you."

He studied her until she very deliberately turned around again and began to walk into what appeared to be a labyrinth of corridors. Slowly, warily, he followed.

: : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : :

Emma Frost stepped cautiously into the machine, raising her mental senses to caress the whispering echoes of thought rolling about the round chamber.

"You have your own Cerebro?" she asked, her mouth quirking about the edges.

Heather Hudson shook her head and started back down the ladder. "Close, but not exactly. Wait until I get out of here before strapping in."

Emma merely laughed. She settled into the chair and closely evaluated the controls. "I think I can handle this."

"Good." Heather backed out of the small door at the bottom of the ladder. "I'm leaving now. Godspeed."

The door shut.

Emma placed the headpiece over her hair and watched the physical world blank out before her, vanishing beneath the cold, white metal. Strength dripped then puddled in her mind. She waited and a thrust of energy overtook her. The image of Gambit rose unbidden from her memories. She raised her arms in the growing astral plane.

The launch was sudden. She was thrown outward on her expanding consciousness and thoughts, voices began to flood her mind.

She searched for Gambit. Only him.

: : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : :

Chere massaged the keys lightly, keeping herself from actually tapping them, as she waited for the conversation to become active.

She didn't argue when her other self had risen up within her and taken over with a ruthless dispassion, ready to play for the hunt. She felt Remy's arms warm around her, his chest against her back, his breath in her hair. It should have been a distracting position to work in, but she welcomed the grounding sensation. Surprisingly, she wasn't distracted.

'You all know, of course, why we're here,' the moderator typed out. 'I always enjoy our get togethers.'

The conversation as always was innocuous. How could anyone know what it really meant?

'I'm sorry that Gambit couldn't be joining us. I heard he was called back for a reunion.'

The box ungrayed. The ball was rolling. First job on.

Chere watched as the bidding went round the table slowly.

'Of course, he couldn't help but go,' typed Blindspot. 'But if I know him, there's a few places he might hide out.'

'Knows his way through the underground, huh?' asked Avalanche.

Chere waited her turn patiently.

Remy dropped his hands from the table and wrapped them around her waist instead. She glanced at him sideways. His red eyes remained fixed on the screen.

"That Gambit," he said with a small, low chuckle. "He's a popular one, non?"

He'd played before too. She returned her attention to the game.

: : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : :

Mercy led Logan to a pair of heavy wooden doors. She rapped sharply with the brass knocker and waited until they heard a muffled reply.

The doors opened to reveal a richly appointed office, also filled with expensive throw rugs, a monster of a desk hearkening back a century at least, art that belonged in museums, and ancient books lining the shelves that probably belonged in museums too. Logan took it all in quickly with an expert eye. He doubted this "Guild" did anything particularly legal.

A tall, dark-haired man studied the two of them from behind the desk, steepling his fingers together. "Thank you, Mercy," he rumbled out at last.

Mercy vanished and the heavy doors fell shut.

: : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : :

Remy read the conversation grow slowly, like sand dripping through an hourglass. The usual words flittered here and there. They all had assets to recommend them. Most didn't know him personally though. Blindspot held one of the best chances so far.

Dieu, he hoped she didn't get the job.

Chere leaned forward and typed, then clicked to throw her chips on the growing pile.

He pulled her head back slightly to read her words.

'I've seen him around. He's as handsome as they say.'

Remy wanted to freeze. Instead, he forced his body to relax and tucked his hands back at her waist. Chere had just upped the ante. Blindspot fired back her quickly, lest she lose the advantage.

'He certainly is. Though he runs through women like water.'

The game was getting sharp. He wished he could read the other hands, but knew he'd have to wait—if they'd get a look at those at all.

: : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : :

Betsy held Jubilee's hand tightly in hers as they followed the woman called LeBeau through dark, underground tunnels lit at intervals by old-fashioned torches. She had given up asking questions. All her attempts to use telepathy were thwarted easily and hand to hand combat was nearly impossible with the current weakness and pain brought on by their mental battle.

She couldn't help but wonder how Rogue had gotten involved in something so dangerous. Everything she had heard about the girl indicated someone who tried to stay out of trouble, but then, since when did Logan do that?

: : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : :

Logan faced the Guildmaster from across the desk. The two men were almost equally matched, and Logan remained wary.

"My name is Jean-Luc LeBeau," the Guildmaster said. "And you're Logan?"

A grunt and a nod.

Jean-Luc frowned thoughtfully. "I've reviewed your case and have a proposition for you."

That's what it always came down to, wasn't it? Logan knew from harsh and painful experience that there was always a price to pay, often in blood. This man weighing him so carefully knew that and was judging what price to demand, Logan would warrant. He was at a disadvantage. He would pay any price.

It was Rogue.

"Shoot," Logan said casually, as if it was nothing.

Neither man gave anything away.

Jean-Luc sighed and tossed a file folder across the desk to land near Logan. "You say your daughter was last seen with Le Diable Blanc?"

"Yes." He didn't touch the folder.

"You know his other name?" Jean-Luc asked.

"You mean Gambit?" Logan leaned back in the chair. It was a fairly comfortable one. Expensive.

Jean-Luc's eyes gleamed fiercely. "Oui. I mean Gambit." He measured Logan again. "You're the Wolverine, non?"

Logan gripped the armrests and moved forward more quickly than Jean-Luc could react to. He was up in the Guildmaster's face, snarling, "How do you know that?"

Jean-Luc remained perfectly calm, a trait Logan grudgingly admired. "We're the Thieves Guild. It's our job to know."

Thieves, huh? Logan sat back and studied the man before him. Something was afoot for LeBeau to give him this as a contact. "How do you know Gambit?" he asked warily.

Jean-Luc grimaced. "He's my son."

That gave Logan pause. A long pause. An evaluating pause. He frowned.

Le Diable Blanc.

Thieves Guild.

Gambit.

The Cajun.

"So you know where she is?" Logan demanded.

"Non." Jean-Luc smiled thinly. "But I can help."

There was an if, hanging in the air, Logan could smell on the man's tongue. "And?"

"If you'll help us, then we'll help you."

Logan settled in again, comfortable with where the conversation was heading, having had many, many like it. "I'm listening."

: : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : :

Blindspot maintained a blank expression as she looked at her cards. She had a good hand and was a good bluffer, but the idle-seeming chitchat was just as important to her getting the job. Of course, there were several other jobs. She glanced into the shadows.

But she wanted this one.

She didn't really want Gambit dead.

: : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : :

Tessa LeBeau stepped into her mentor's library. A fire glowed in the fireplace and the curtains had been flung open on the cold Montreal morning. She crossed over to a window and stared out.

Patience had always been a requirement for her since her mentor had taken her in and placed her in his upper echelons. She waited patiently for him, knowing that he would appear when it was time. Her guests waited with her, though unwitting for the most part, in the lushly appointed rooms that had been prepared for them.

A wind blew across the city with ominous portent.

: : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : :

Jean-Luc didn't like working with mercenaries. He never had. So he was more than surprised to see Wolverine, a Canadian self-healing, clawful of a dangerous loose cannon show up with a job for the Thieves Guild. More surprised when he opened Mercy's folder and discovered what the job was.

The Thieves Guild didn't do missing persons.

Then he read the comments. Last seen with Diable Blanc. Last seen with his son. He remembered the phone conversation Henri had relayed to him. Put it together with Bella Donna's whereabouts. Remembered authorizing the instant silence concerning all things related to his youngest son.

And realized the potential.

As Patriarch of the New Orleans Thieves Guild, Jean-Luc was required to uphold certain rules of Remy's banishment, not limited to leaving Remy to fend for himself against contracts. But with this girl being with his son, he could bend those rules. He could allow the Wolverine to do it for him.

He'd agreed to the meeting.

Even if he hated mercenaries.

: : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : :

Remy disentangled from Chere when she dropped her cards for the draw. He went into the hotel room's kitchenette and retrieved two glasses of water. He set one by her hand. She sipped on it, then sent her fingers flying across the keys again.

The Yakuza and Blindspot were still in. As was Chere and number 10, whoever that was. Everyone else had been fairly well outbid or outclassed.

He scooted Chere forward and settled behind her again. She leaned back and studied her new cards.

Two Aces of Spades. A Queen of Diamonds. A Queen of Hearts. A ten of Diamonds.

"Nicely done, Chere."

"Merci." She picked up the glass of water and sipped on it again. "And it's Femme Fatale."

He grinned.

: : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : :

"You mind?"

"Non." Jean-Luc chuckled and pulled out his own cigar. "Been hoping you'd ask."

The two men leaned back comfortably to discuss. Logan listened as Jean-Luc sketched out a few brief details of what they knew about Rogue. The fact that they had her profile with Department H didn't exactly sit well with him.

"And Gambit?" he asked.

"There's a contract on his head," Jean-Luc said bluntly. "Maybe more than one." He didn't mince words, did he? "He's been pulled off of any jobs and given his head to save his own hide." He blew out a ring of smoke.

"And?" Logan prodded.

"And my hands are tied." Jean-Luc frowned. "Messy family business, but it means I can't interfere for him. I'm not a mercenary or an assassin. I don't have the right contacts to find out what's going down. We give you everything we have on where he is and what he's doing--everything--and then you find out who wants him and why. You get your girl; he gets some sort of protection."

Logan looked at the Cajun Thief, blowing out his own ring of smoke. Child for child. They were both in the same boat, helplessly watching their worlds ensnared in this deadly game of life for life.

He took the folder off the edge of the desk, flipped it open, and skimmed its contents. He grunted at intervals. Le Diable Blanc was in deeper than anyone thought, it would seem. Logan already knew his answer, but he considered everything on the page.

"Full disclosure," he said. "I don't want any surprises and I want any questions immediately answered. Any time I call."

Jean-Luc nodded. "We give you every resource at our disposal. You'll have a list of contacts for each branch of the Guild. Whatever you need, it's yours."

Logan closed the folder and tossed it back across the desk.

"We'll deal."

: : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : :

The door opened behind Tessa LeBeau and she listened carefully as her mentor entered on silent tread and settled at his desk. He liked to spend hours looking into the fireplace and she didn't doubt he was doing it now.

Patience had always been a requirement for her, so she waited, knowing she would know when he was ready to speak.
 


Comments




Leave a Reply