The Treasure of Harlem's Butcher

March 23, 2017:

Luke Cage and Lara Croft team-up to discover the lost vault of a notorious Harlem criminal from the 1970s!

Harlem

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Quiet murmurs that have persisted for the last several decades have exploded into fierce gossip in the past several hours: with the death of one Jerome Watkins, documents have been discovered that point to a subterranean bunker filled with cash, jewels, bonds, and more from the mid-1970s—or, as it's been referred to in whispers:

The legendary hoard of Black Eye Butcher, the heaviest, most far-out pimp in the history of Harlem!

With word rapidly circulating among all manner of circles, the neighborhood is quickly becoming a tangle of would-be treasure hunters, historians, urban explorers, and diverse curious amateurs.

According to the few records that anyone bothered to write down, Butcher most likely had access to unused side tunnels in part of the subway system between 135th and 145th streets. But beyond that … who knows where the vault is hidden?


This sort of 'hunt' was certainly the kind that was not on Lara Croft's radar, generally.. it was more for one of thos tv archaeologists to go after, the kind that loved to have a camera crew follow them around and the audience on the streets cheering if they found anything.

In fact, Lara was only convinced to come here because she owed a colleague at the Natural History Museum a favor. He wanted her to help him with research here on this little endeavor and he was hoping to find the loot and open a whole section on it at the museum…

So, here Lara Croft is, on a fairly chilly day wearing her black leather jacke with a dark blue hoodie on beneath it, her hands are stuffed into her jeans front pockets and she's walking along the streets… eyeing various things here and there and going over the information taht her friend and supplied her with, trying to just absorb Harlem as it was a part of NYC she hadn't spent much time in yet.


About a block away from Lara, there's a small crowd formed around an abandoned storefront with a faded hanging sign in an odd shapeit's not quite the mortar-and-pestle of a pharmacyabout twelve feet over the sidewalk. In the middle of this crowd is a short older hispanic woman and a large black man.

"You /sure/ about this, Mrs. Martinez?" the man asks loudly over the low din of the crowd.

"Yes, Mister Cage. My son owns the building, he says to take a look," the woman replies.

The assembled bystanders attempt to press in close, but the large man puts out his arms to ward them off.

"Come on, now. Back off, folks. If I open that door, only I go in. Contracted employee and all. I /will/ stop you. Don't make me."

The odd shape of the sign begins to become clearer in context: it's a feathered hat on a chalice.


Lara paused a moment as she thought she saw something she recognized from the notes she'd taken. She pulled her hands out of her jeans pockets and put the left one into the side pocket of her jacket. A moment later she pulled out the leather-bound journal that she'd picke dup for this little adventure and she started thumbing through it…

It took her a second to really 'hear' the words being spoken by that group that wasn't that far away from her, Luke's voice in-particular stood out because of his authoritative words. She eventually broke her eyes from her journal and looked over to him to study him, and the others for a few moments.

Lara walked close, her black hikding boots quietly impacting on the concrete as she drew closer toward them, journal still in-hand.


The crowd backs up slightly as the large man lifts an arm before smashing through the door and its multiple barricades, which explode inwards.

As the dust settles, the building is pitch-black. A few bystanders attempt to run inside, but they're quickly caught and flung back toward the street by the man.

"Mrs. Martinez," he says, "you stay right here in the doorway. Everyone else stays out here. Who knows what could be down here—whether it's something you /think/ will be there or not. This ain't a time for that fiddle-faddle. Got it?" the man asks, looking around sternly.

Some hesitant assent is voiced, and then the man disappears into the darkness.


Lara watched the man show a rather impressive display of strength and she's shocked by it just about as much as everyone else who was onlooking.

But when Luke disappeared inside Lara glanced around at everyone. She reached into her jacket and she pulled out her ID. Approaching Mrs Martinez, Lara showed the badge. "Excuse me. I'm… Lara Croft, I'm with SHIELD. I'm quite curious as to what precisely is going on here?" She'd ask the older woman in her thickly accented British voice, which might seem rather out of place in the heart of Harlem.

Lara's eyes would glance back toward the entrance to where Luke had just vanished, quite curiously… but she'd looked once more to the older woman to await her answers.


The short woman blinks nervously. "I … I'm just having Mister Cage look in my son's building. For squatters."

Someone in the crowd laughs. Someone else shushes them.

"No need for SHIELD," Mrs. Martinez says. "I promise."

Someone in the crowd snorts. "Don't let SHIELD hear about that Butcher loot, though!"

"Are you serious?!" someone else hisses. "Get that moron out of here!"


Lara's attention drifted between speakers and then she exhaled softly and shook her head. "As luck would have it…" She pulled out a second ID badge. "I'm also with the American Museum of Natural History… so, this isn't just simply a SHIELD matter. Its a preservation of historical artifacts. So if this is in any way connected to the stories that are floating about… then, well, please, stay here and wait for our return. Don't let others inside, and if things pan out… you'll all be attributed with the discovery in the history books." She showed a soft smile to everyone and then turned to and follow after Luke and disappear into the hole he'd busted into the building.


If anyone attempts to protest, their voices are difficult to hear once inside the building. The front rooma former storefrontis filled with old boxes whose arrangement creates a path toward the building's center.

There's very little light, as well, and it takes a moment or five to adjust to the darkness.

Someoneperhaps 'Mister Cage'?seems to have opened a reinforced trapdoor in the floor beneath which exists a staircase heading to a basement. Or perhaps a sub-basement, because the steps continue much deeper than where a basement would be.


A high-powered LED tactical flashlight beam sparks to life and shines down the staircase. Lara's black leather boots now impact upon the stairs as she walks carefully down into the basement. The beam of light cuts through the dust and particles in the air, she scans around looking for the man who'd gone in moments ahead of her.

"Hello?" Lara called out not too loudly, just barely above normal pitch levels. "I'm Agent Croft, with SHIELD's Acquistion Department…" Its best to indentify yourself in these situations right? Lara's training had kind of been glossed over, since she tested through every course that SHIELD put her through at a level higher than almost any other student ever had.

Lara's brown eyes scanned about the area. "it certainly seems to fit the timeline…" She said to herself barely over a whisper. "It looks as though no one has been in here since the seventies…"


"Ahh—CRUD!" someone shouts, and the large black man from before is in the flashlight beam, shielding his eyes.

"Mind not pointing that at me?" he asks while squinting. "And I thought I told you to stay out front. Come on, now."

Around him, the room suggests a mix of long-faded velvet drapes and shag carpeting, albeit exposed to forty years of neglected New York plumbing and other elements. The smell is certainly potent.


Lara swept the beam away from him when he clearly was nearly blinded by the high powered LEDs. "I'm sorry." She told him. A moment later and she took another step toward him. "Look. I'm an archaeologist. I didn't even want to be involved in this search, but I owed a friend a favor. All the research that we did has lead me to this point, and I find it ironic that… well… we've both ended up here at the proverbial 'X' on the map."

Lara looked around the room again. "Was this his home?" She asked then, since her mind moved a hundred miles a minute, and generally always toward whatever mystery she was trying to solve.


"Lady, I don't know. I've been stumbling around here blind," the man replies, waving his arm about in front of what appears to be a fireplace poker sticking out of the wall about four feet above the ground.

"Luckily I managed to stop before running into this super-unsafe flagpole-lookin' thing here. I mean, this would hurt just about anybody." He gives it a playful slap.

The poker shifts suddenly and the man disappears through a hidden trapdoor under his feet.


Lara's hands went up right as he swung at the pole and she cried out. "No, wait!" But it was too late and the rather large man was gone almost as suddenly as he'd appeared in front of her. Lara's eyes went wide with worry and she ran over to the trapdoor and drppped down next to it. "Hello?" She called out down into the dark. Her light once again was shun down inside of it. "Are you hurt?" She further asked, looking around for a way for her to get down there too… preferably without having to drop like he had, though she'd certainly taken similar such risks in her young (but experienced) career of adventuring.


The trap chute seems to be quite smooth, although it has small crevices between the stones of its walls.

Some ways down, the man's voice calls out. "I'm alright!" There's a pause. "I think. I'm not hurt, at least … mind sending that light this way?"

The voice echoes, so it's likely there's a larger chamber below.

Looking around here, the aesthetic is clearly a '70s lounge, complete with a massive wood-paneled television set and an aquarium set into one wall that's filled with gunk.


Lara exhaled sharply and she moved forward, crawling herself down into the trapdoor and then releasing and sending herself down the chute! She was much lighter than Luke, as well as smaller, so she didn't fear for her safety all that much…

Once she too arrived and landed on her feet at the base of the chute, she grumbled a little and then lifted her flashlight up and offered it to him, looking up at him. "I thought I would personally deliver it." She said to him with a small smile.

Lara's eyes then went to look around the lounge and she started to take small steps to explore it. "My word…" She gasped. "Its like Austin Powers was the decorator." Movies that she'd never actually seen, but they were simply hard to avoid in pop culture, especially since he was a Canadian mocking British culture.


"Someone would've had to have a lot of wealth to build a place like this, but I imagine he'd seal it up in a vault somewhere, which might be problematic for us should we even locate it."

"Hm," the man replies, looking around. "I'll admit—this isn't really my forte. You say you're SHIELD, right? Where do we even begin?"

He steps toward a large portrait of someone that must have been Black Eye Butcher. "Some people had the worst fashion sense…"

"By the way, I'm Cage. Luke Cage. Hero for hire. Not that it looks much like it at the moment." Luke dusts off his shirt with a scowl.


Lara smiled softly over at him again. "Hello, Luke." She said to him. "I'm Lara, Croft… And yes, Agent with SHIELD… though I'm also with the Natural History Museum, which has been funding the majority of my expeditions since I arrived here in the United States."

She exhaled softly then and went back to looking. She pulled her SHIELD cell phone out of her pocket then and started to look around the room with it. It would look like she was making a recording for like, Youtube or something.

"I will admit that I haven't a lot of experience with… urban adventures. Usually I am neck deep in mud and gunk in the wilderness on my travels. So this is, all a bit new." She paused a moment and then tapped her phone and four orange beams of laser-like energy emit from it and she begins to sweep them over the room and its walls.

"I hate to believe that this… Butcher would simply hide his most valued items behind a painting, as that would be rather cliche, wouldn't it?" She glanced back at Luke and grinned. "But he's always displayed a fairly large amount of cliche, what with a lever and a trapdoor with a slide beneath it…"

Lara was looking through her phone's screen again as she used SHIELD tech to scan the room.


"Well," Luke replies, "if it makes you feel any better, I'm not usually looking for treasure under run-down buildings, either. Instead, I'm punching people through walls and making sure kids aren't hassled after school."

As Lara sweeps the room, Luke raises an eyebrow. "That would be too much. Someone must've loved his Bond movies. This, uh, wasn't originally a SHIELD safehouse or anything that Butcher repurposed, was it? Just making sure Mrs. Martinez won't lose the building to eminent domain or whatever."

According to the phone/sensor, there's /definitely/ a vault-like room just on the other side of one wall, and it appears to be packed with /something/ that looks like money and … clothes? more drapes?


"I think you're right about the James Bond thing." Lara quietly replied. "And it sounds like you do very noble work, Mister Cage." She said while scanning and walking, walking and scanning. She bumped into a table where two old wine glasses were still standing tall and proud (and dusty) and they rattled a little but didn't fall over, which she was happy about.

"I… have only been with SHIELD for about two months now." She responded. "So if this property was theirs, I wouldn't know. But it doesn't have their style about it. I mean, somewhat, but… not quite."

When the vault outline appeared, Lara scanned it all and then turned back to Luke to show him, offering the phone. "There's a room behind this wall." She told him. "No obvious door… Likely another switch somewhere."

She'd started to look around the room. She walked up to a Bust statuette on a shelf and, hesitated… but reached out to place her hand on its head and attempted to push… though she could hardly believe it would do anything.


As Lara pushes the bust, there's a quiet whirr as if some mechanism were being activated, and a small disco ball drops from a hidden spot in the ceiling … and then the mechanism quickly dies out from a probable lack of battery charge.

Walking over to below the ball, Luke takes a deep breath and then heads shoulder-first through the wall. There's another cloud of dustquite similar to the one on the sidewalk!and Luke coughs loudly.

"I … I think this is it?" he asks quietly, moving around and making sounds like he's standing on a pile of coins.

The vault appears to be about the size of an Olympic swimming pool, complete with Scrooge McDuck levels of cash stored here. There's also a lot of fur coats. And also vinyl and 8-track tapes. Black Eye /also/ appeared to have quite the collection of platform soles and oversized, bejeweled sunglasses.


Lara sharply turned her head to look as the disco ball came down and she then instantly frowned… she'd worried it was going to be some kind of booby trap, like a lethal spike or battering-post… but, not that! "Goodness." She quietly muttered.

But when Luke rushed the wall and slammed into it, and through it, she shot back on her feet and her eyes went wide!

And moments after he arrived inside the vault, Lara's curious head poked through the hole he'd created and she too stepped inside. "Holy mother of God." She said, seeing all of the loot here-in. "This is unbelievable."

Lara's free hand waved in front of her face at the dust created by Luke's ramming charge. "Are you okay?" She asked him. "That strength of yours is God-like, honestly." She was immediately more concerned about him than the room, since that was the polite thing to do.


Luke rubs the back of his neck. "Yeah, I get that a lot. But don't sweat it—it's all good." He nods to the contents of the giant vault. "So … I guess that cash fever hittin' the hood upstairs can be called off."

He shrugs. "Probably for the best, but a bunch o' people sure are gonna be upset they didn't find this place first. Speaking of which," Luke adds, "do we need to seal the building off or something?"


Lara nodded when he said that he was okay and she went about searching the room some more, though she didn't stray too far from him. The room was huge, and it was filled… there was a lot of money here… "Oh, uh, yes."

She pulled her eyes off of the items here-in, as they may not be ancient artifacts, but they were rather intriguing none the less. "I'll place a call to my people and have them come straight over." She told him, walking back toward him while tapping on her phone. She looked up at him. "Do you want to be credited for this discovery, Mister Cage?" She asked then, her eyes coming up to look at him curiously.


"Nah, I was just doing my job. If I'm mentioned at all," Luke says, "make sure it's in reference to my employer, Mrs. Consuela Martinez. She's the one who wanted to check this building out." He shrugs. "Maybe she'll get a little compensation or something. Could use it."

The hero for hire looks around. "I can hang about until your reinforcements arrive. Who knows what other kinds of traps and whatnot Black Eye set up here. Or how they're functioning now that they've been neglected so long … not that a SHIELD agent is incapable of protecting themselves." Luke grins.

"Tell you what. I'll stand right here by the 'door' I made. You let me know when I can help. Otherwise, I won't be in your way."


Lara listened to him, nodded two small times and then moved back toward that makeshift door that he'd created. She paused and then motioned a few feet down. "Look." She said, her left pointer finger aiming at what would clearly be the actual doorway. "Thats on the opoosite side of…" She sighed. "The painting in the lounge." As the archaeologist stepped back into the lounge through the broken wall she shook her head. "So cliche."

She lifted her phone up then and placed the call to SHIELD. "Misses Martinez is about to become a very famous figurehead in this neighborhood then." She said back to Luke with a small smile. "And well… I need to find the way out of here, rather than attempt to crawl back up that chute…"

It wouldn't take long for a couple of SHIELD SUVs to arrive outside and for Agents to start to setup a perimeter, and not long behind them would be News Vans and even some NYPD Squad Cars… This area was about to become a hive of activity for likely several days to come…


END

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