Ink and Dagger

October 20, 2018:

Blade, Huntress, and Moon Knight converge on criminal and occult goings-on in a criminally run tattoo parlor. Then they trade information about their targets.

East End, Gotham

A tattoo parlor named 'The Painted Lady' next to a strip mall near the neighborhood boundaries of Bristol and East End in Gotham City.


NPCs: Eastern European mobsters



Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

"Look, Lockley," the cigar-chomping taxi dispatcher known as 'Smelly Frank' barks into his radio, "you're /taking/ this call or you're /finished/!"

With a heavy sigh, Jake Lockley curses and responds. "Fine, Frank. Fine. On my way."

Ten minutes later, Lockley and his cab pull up outside the 'Painted Lady' tattoo parlor located in a standalone building near a strip mall right where Bristol sours into the East End.

It's well past business hours - even for a tattoo shop - and the cabbie grumbles and folds his arms across his chest.

To the right crowds, the parlor is known for its ties to one of Gotham's mid-tier crime families. Friday night, every week, there's a meeting here to coordinate business.

Perhaps it is not surprising, then, that on /this/ Friday night, a number of gunshots ring out, although they are somewhat muffled, as if they had occurred in an insulated room or basement of the building.


The sneaky Huntress has been staking out this notorious strip mall for most of the night. She has been incognito and walked the grounds earlier, summoning the spirit of Batman to case the joint like a pro. She planted motion detectors inconspicuously to catch the movements of the evil people coming and going. She paid careful attention to the tattoo parlor in particular, feeling its evil radiate from inside, increasing her desire to kick the crap out of somebody. She walks down the sidewalk while planning a bloody ambush and stands at the side of the shadowy mall, then peels away her disguise, showing that it was THE HUNTRESS all along! She notes the gunshots from nearby and prepares to scout out who is responsible, deciding to stay there in the shadows for a moment before she kicks everyone's ass.


Bullet smack into the stone wall, missing their target entirely. A ricochet flings itself laterally and shatters a window, buzzing like an angry hornet; the crash of glass admits the last report of gunfire to the Gotham sky, while creating a rush of wind as the fetid dank of the basement air is swapped out for the moldering refuse that contaminates Gotham's nighttime.

The ghoul is fast, faster than most people. A slavering wretch that hungers only for flesh, they're shock troops for the vampire courts. Easily controlled as long as they're fed a steady supply of fresh, raw meat. Tougher and more durable than their human familiars, though ghouls struggle to pass for anything human during daylight hours. With their rotting skin and distended jaws, they're visibly Not Human anymore.

Which is fine with Blade. Ghouls die just like everything else if you know how to kill them.

He leans half around cover, bending forward and holding his gun upside down. A chattering of suppressed gunfire stitches a line into the ghoul's belly, ventilating the blood reservoir in the gut. He steps into cover, ghost steps the other direction, and puts six more rounds into the space between jaw and forehead. Even then, the ghoul drops in a hissing, twitching mass, screaming angrily and flailing blindly at it's face.

Blade steps on a wrist, pinning the ghoul's talon, and puts another round directly between the eyes. Brains spatter the wall and the ghoul becomes a twitching corpse, hungering for blood even in death.

"Goddamnit Knight, where the fuck are you," Blade snarls to himself. A fresh magazine is loaded into the SMG and he re-holsters it under his arm with a swirl of the black duster that covers his gear. Moon Knight was supposed to pull off the guard teams to let Blade sneak in undisturbed. The margin here was minutes at best; no time to wait for the errant vigilante. Blade moves to one of the heavy storage crates and undoes the latches, then flicks it open.

His scowl deepens. A human - a live one. Some kind of long-term storage unit. Oxygen tanks, IV nutrient drips. Designed to keep someone alive and comatose for as long as possible during transport.

He checks manifests on the side of the crates. Lisbon. Another one: Paris. Two more: Rome.

He rests his gloves against the side of the crate and scowls heavily at the person kept inside. "Why the fuck are you so special?" he mutters at the comatose man. "Shipped out like… special desserts all over the world." Blade reaches for a smartphone and presses the man's fingertips against it. It's better than nothing - he'll be able to run an ID check against the prints later. Hopefully something comes up.

For now, Blade starts ripping open the human cargo crates and turning off the sedative drips. The occupants will wake up disoriented and sick, but alive. For now.

He exits the basement room with a silent tread of boot on the ground. Another door is in his way; an autopick buzzes the deadbolt open and Blade moves into the storage room. Like many Gotham businesses, the tattoo parlor is built on older ruins; these were once bootlegger tunnels connecting businesses to one another and even running as far as the docks, in places.

His scowl deepens at the stack of smaller plastic crates in the room. More markings - incoming ones. From Brazil. Europe. Parts of Central America. Most of them from the Czech Republic and Baltic States. Blade opens one and examines a blood-crusted stone chalice with a heavy frown, and gets a picture of it with his phone. Dark artifacts - the sort of thing used for high magic and blood sacrifices. A language he cannot translate readily is carved into the cup's surface, and Blade drops the cup back into the packing material with an irritated gesture.

"Who the fuck is shippin' this shit?" he asks the air around him, rhetorically.


At the sound of the gunshots, the cabbie suddenly springs to action. He shakes his head and then smacks at his temple, like he's doing a poor job of clearing swimmer's ear.

The man moves to his trunk and pops it open, where he quickly disrobes, revealing an all-white bodysuit. He pulls on a cowl and cape before running toward the parlor's back door. For a long moment, Moon Knight crouches at the door, picking the lock before opening the door silently.

Moments after he's moved into the building, however, a pair of muscle cars roar into the strip mall parking lot, their headlights veering near, but missing, Huntress' hiding spot as the cars screech to a halt outside the tattoo parlor.

Four men get out, dressed all in black, and they're clearly armed with submachine guns. They speak to each other in a Ukranian dialect of Russian and prepare to breach the back door. At least one is familiar, but none are players in Gotham - they're Brighton Beach boys.

Inside the parlor, Moon Knight creeps toward an open door. He reaches for a crescent-shaped throwing dart on his belt before Blade suddenly asks his question.

"If you're asking me," Knight says loudly, "it's got to do with - "

His sentence is cut short as a quartet of men burst in, firing wildly with their submachine guns.


The attentive Huntress has spotted the cars early because she's standing right there at the side of the mall. She ducks back around to the front to follow them as they close in on the evil tattoo parlor.

The shadowy figure is stalking them like a panther, as their cars slow and stop, she's up behind them and watching them like a cloud. She waits for them to exit their evil cars and walk to the tattoo parlor and she has no choice but to target them with her twin wrist bolts. She lifts her delicate wrists and aims like a Greek assassin at the back of their heads, snapping off both shots.


Blade dives for cover at the chattering of automatic weapons. Moon Knight's on his own. Blade has allies - but no one he'd particularly take a bullet for. Anyone who can't survive a gangland assassination is going to get eaten alive by the vampires.


The nice thing about silver-tipped hollowpoints is that they're remarkably effective not just against vampires, but humans as well. His sleek SMG chatters with a burst of automatic fire that puts four rounds into a fist-sized group in one man's chest, dropping him on the spot. Blade ducks into cover behind a heavy support beam and effects a reload, trusting Moon Knight to handle #2.

The sound of crossbow bolts striking home in the back of a skull has a peculiar sound all its own, though. He glances at Moon Knight, brows raised in mild surprise, and peers carefully around the pillar at the woman who just executed the two men.


The two men closest to Huntress drop with heavy thuds, their guns spraying into the ceiling and the night sky as one final spasm tugs their trigger fingers before they lie motionless on the floor.

One of the remaining two assailants spots his colleagues' dropping and quickly turns to try and catch the Huntress with a burst of gunfire.

The initial wave of bullets causes Moon Knight to dive for cover, shots peppering holes in his cape. As he hits the ground, the white-clad man spins and grabs a baton from a holster on the side of his boot. The baton is flung at the man targeting Huntress, knocking him in the wrist and numbing his hand to prevent him from squeezing the trigger.

Moon Knight leaps to a crouch and then tackles the man, pinning him beneath Knight's own weight.

The fourth gunman, meanwhile, is ended quickly by Blade.

Once there's a moment to assess what all has just happened, though, Moon Knight glances from Blade to the doorway - and the Huntress just beyond.

"Are you here for them or for us?" he asks calmly.


The wily Huntress has downed two of the gunmen and seems unmoved by her violence, "Depends," she says, as two more bolts pop into place, rattling into position as the trigger pulls back and locks into place, a violent sound that bounces off the black pavement and echos in the parking lot. Much like Deadshot, she's ready to gun them down too.

Huntress narrows her eyes through her dark mask at this Moon Knight character and this Blade guy, "Someone had a better plan than me to put a hose to a criminal bordello," she says with much allusion, "You want to explain what's going?" she asks them. She keeps them under close aim, "Up to you."


Blade steps out from an entirely different pillar than he'd been behind a moment before. Fast. Almost too fast for the human eye to follow, and he's got that weird SMG in his hand before flickering it under his duster to a hidden holster. The fact that he's running the device *single handedly* and using it more efficiently than most soldiers could with two hands suggests something superhuman at work. Possibly even preternatural, given the mild tip of his canines.

"Ain't here to run a Q&A section with a cape," Blade explains. He speaks in a sibilant baritone, face concealed behind dark sunglasses and a heavy duster concealing much of his movement and equipment from casual view. "Not much of a plan you've got," he adds a moment later. "Walk in, gank four thugs and a ghoul with… lawn darts." He bares his teeth in a humorless grin. "Like stickin' a rhino with a needle."


Where Blade comes in hot, Moon Knight remains calm - although his weight remains strategically placed on the surviving gunman's limbs and chest.

"What my associate is trying to say is that it'd definitely help if you did not immediately murder our new friend here," Moon Knight says with a slight nod of his head to the man underneath him.

"There are things we need to learn before the moon grows full, and we really can't diverge from an already-full schedule. If you please." He offers a second nod to the loaded crossbows before clearing his throat.

Moon Knight looks around. "Probably not much of a surprise to hear that this place is a front. Only it's not a front for your run-of-the-mill criminal affair. Blade - you find anything in particular worth sharing? Otherwise I've just got the general theories to run through."

"Assuming, of course," he adds to Huntress, "you're interested in hearing about things that go bump in the night."


The mysterious Huntress keeps her wrist aimed at Blade and says, "Maybe you're standing on a motion sensor that'll blow your foot off. Maybe I'm bulletproof, asshole," she tells him.

Glancing at the clever-looking Moon Knight, Huntress nods at his suggestions, although she replies, "I already asked you to spill it," she tells him helpfully, "The place is a front and it's not a very good front. An idiot can spot this one," she adds with charm. She diverts her aim for the moment though keeps eyeing Blade.


"Ain't runnin' a tour group. You wanna out her to the fangs, be my guest," Blade advises Moon Knight. He looks at Huntress, eyes unreadable behind the glasses. "Stick to bootleggers and loan sharks," he advises her. "You ain't ready for this fight. You'll come out the other side nothin' but ground meat."

Dimissing her entirely, he moves to the guy he dropped and casually starts rolling the corpse. Wallet, keys. ID. Blade crouches over the corpse like a vulture, using a portable skimmer to rip off the credit cards and drain the corpse's accounts. He examines the watch, and hisses displeasure before tossing it aside.

"Fake," he announces, scornfully.


The gunman under Moon Knight groans, so the vigilante in white jabs him in the side of the head quickly. The gunman exhales in a snore.

"Well," Knight says, tilting his head slightly, "you can go ahead and lower the crossbow. It would upset him and I've died before. Unless you want to keep up the caution. That's fine, too. Besides, who knows if these punks are going to have backup at any time soon?" He looks around at the ruined parlor. "If they do have any sort of sensors, surely they'll know we've found the real prize here."

Moon Knight glances to Blade. "We did find it, right? Tell me they haven't already shipped it off elsewhere…" He sighs softly and speaks nearly as softly to himself as much as to anyone else. "Why did ancient civilizations feel compelled to make as many ludicrously dangerous ritual artifacts as they could?"

"Oh, right," he adds. "Did you know that, just like people love to try and call on forgotten gods for aid, vampires have their own that they worship, too? And that they can usually dial in a bit easier than your average goth with a candle set?"


The questioning Huntress looks at this Moon Knight fella confusingly, "Dial V for Vampire?" she wonders, "Is this a bad B-Movie? I can't understand what the f*** you guys are talking about," she rattles off.

Huntress watches Blade skin the corpse of his money and then asks, "What are you guys looking for here anyway?" she wonders, "I thought this was the Sanchez brothers shop. Where are they? Are you telling me they're vampires? Where's Christopher Lee?"


Crazy as Moon Knight can be, it's apparent that he's much more of a 'people person' than Blade is. The dark-skinned Hunter dismisses Huntress' ongoing questions to continue rolling the corpses for their personal effects. He pilfers them pretty easily, and then joins Moon Knight in his control hold over #4.

"Like Brazil all over again," he tells Moon Knight, grimly. "And Europe. Bodies prepped for shipment. Four of 'em," he says, lifting his chin towards the antechambers. "Sedatives and IV drips. Prepped for a trip overseas. Pulled fingerprints. Once we figure out who they are, we can figure out why the fangs are shipping snackboxes all over the fuckin' world."

He glances at Huntress, and continues addressing Moon Knight. "I think we're seein' sales. Or trades. They're hoardin' artifacts. Don't take a wizard to tell it's ugly shit. Black magic icons," he grunts, showing Moon Knight a picture of the blood-crusted cup. "Angles are all wrong. Asymmetrical. Black magic. I think they're fixin to do something heavy. Big magic. Something to do with Czernobog, the Celt god," he remarks.

"Which don't track, 'cause Czernobog's been zeroed out for a century at least. Longer, maybe. Can't bring it back from the dead. Right?"


Shifting his weight off of the remaining gunman for Blade to pilfer from, Moon Knight nods and slowly stands. "Sounds about right," he replies and looks to Huntress.

"In this analogy … Christopher Lee's probably in the center of some /incredibly/ secret society, being doused nightly in virgin blood and eating children as part of endless orgies to channel dark energies for calling forth … well, we're not even remotely sure yet." Moon Knight looks down at the gunman.

"Czernobog's our best lead so far, like he says. But - and maybe this is an obvious statement, too - we're talking about myths. Stories of stories of stories. Games of 'telephone' played across centuries to screw up the facts of long-lost realities." He points to the storeroom door. "Some of these items help fill in some gaps. Sometimes they're still missing their proper instruction manuals for use."

Moon Knight chuckles, only a bit more warmth than Blade's shown so far. "And the worst part is that some of the most educated minds know less than inbred savants tucked away in the Ozarks or the Caucasus or wherever else. But sometimes groups like this family tap into that folk knowledge. The right mixture of wrong circumstances leads to a potential storm that could ruin us all."

He sighs. "So that's where we're at. You follow?" He stares at Huntress.


Huntress gives a nod to the helpful Moon Knight, and walks over next to him so she can spy what he's looking at to learn more about these items he's talking about and not look too much like an idiot, "Ruin us all?" she wonders, "Wouldn't want that…" she mutters inconspicuously, not quite believing or understanding or caring really.

Huntress glances at Moon Knight, waving her hand dismissively, "Yep right, I got it," she explains.


"Wakey wakey," Blade says, slapping the thug a few times. The man groans and lurches awake, fumbling and flailing his hand at Blade's face. The Hunter rather calmly slams a punch dagger into the man's hand, biting into the web of his thumb and pinning it to the ground.

The thug screams, and Blade presses a knee into his chest. "Oh good, you're awake," he remarks, brows lifting. "Glad I've got your attention. Now, I'm gonna play a game I call twenty questions. Answer me honestly, you get to keep a finger. Lie to me, I take one as a souvenier."

He leans down, baring his teeth in the man's face. "And I can /hear/ your heart beating when you lie. So be honest."

"Question one. The artifacts. Where are the rest of them being stored?" he demands. The knife twists just a little at the first sign of resistance to the question. "Nono, I can see you thinking about tellign me a lie. /Talk/. Where are they?" he demands, snarling.


Moon Knight nods silently in response to Huntress' acknowledgment of his brief lecture before turning his attention down to the interrogation taking place.

The gunman winces and groans at Blade's knife-twisting, and his eyes wildly dart back and forth across the faces of the assembled vigilantes.

"Look, I - aghh - I'll tell you. God! Nghh…Ok. They're all over the place. You know about …" he tries to catch his breath but winces again. "… about all the foreign business comin' into the east coast? Everybody's got a piece of the puzzle to get their piece of the pie. You know?"

He swallows a lump in his throat and looks at Blade. "Please, man. That really fucking hurts … !"


Huntress frowns at Blade's abuse of the criminal filth under him and she smirks, "Pull it out before he passes out," she advises helpfully. She glances at this Moon Knight guy and asks, "Where did you dig up this guy?" she wonders.


"Mm. Not good enough." Blade shifts the dagger tip and puts it against the first knuckle of the man's pinky, shifting his weight as the sharp edge bites into soft flesh. He doesn't push all the way through - yet - but his body language suggests he's going to.

The man screams protest, flailing, and Blade pauses to regard him with uplifted brows. "Oh, you feel like talking -now-?" he inquires, voice going high with surprise. "I want names. Someone's making sure these slip customs without inspection. Going out past the harbormaster. Who's running the dockside scam?" he demands, shaking the man by the lapel. "I want to know who's bringing this shit in and sending those bodies out!"


Shrugging, Moon Knight steps away from the interrogation and glances out the back door. "I know a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy…" he says idly, looking up toward the moon.

Looking back down at the man in white is the enormous face of a giant bird skull, its eye sockets filled with cobwebs. Of course, it's not actually there. It's just the moon.

Beneath Blade, the man squirms and hyperventilates as he watches his finger nearly get amputated. "Come - come on, man! I said I'd talk - I'll talk - ahhghhhh!" he cries, snot bubbling in his nostrils.

"You - nghhnghh - need to check out Red Line Imports. Them … ahhh, shit! … them and the Coast Guard. Easiest - easiest way to get things by, man …" the terrified assailant-turned-victim
blurts out.


Blade turns and regards Moon Knight with an impassive expression. "See?" he tells his comrade in arms, and turns back to the man. The point of the dagger shifts to the underside of his jaw, forcing the man into pained chokes of silence and rolling his eyes back as he tries to escape the sharp tip and the blood it draws.

"This is how this is gonna play. You're gonna walk outta here. You're gonna go to the bus station. And you're gonna get on the first Greyhound across the country. Try Nebraska," Blade suggests. "Sunny a lot. No reason for fangs to show up."

The knife digs deeper. "And if I /ever/ see your sorry ass again, I will fuckin' cut your nose off and throw you in a pit for the fangs to feed on."

He grabs the man with a fishook grip to his lower jaw, hauling him to his feet, and kicks his ass towards the door. "Get yo' ass outta here," he grunts, and watches the man flee.

He turns back to Moon Knight. "Hostages will be up and running soon. Whistler will call in an anonymous tip to Gotham PD. Bodies for the morgue. Artifacts will be impounded." He uplifts his chin towards the storage room. "Your call. Do we take 'em, let the cops have 'em, or - " He digs behind his back under his duster, and comes up with a pair of grenade canisters.

He grins fiercely at Moon Knight. "Or do we have a little thermite cookout?"


"I'm not above force to get what we need," Moon Knight replies over his shoulder. "I'm just not convinced it was necessary in this case. I mean, look at this poor bastard."

He watches the man run off into the night.

"On the one hand, I think we shouldn't draw too much attention to our operation … at least in regards to /everything/ we learned here. Besides, Gotham has its own immune system that will want to investigate. On the other hand," Knight adds, "the forces we're trying to stop aren't the only ones that demand sacrifices for their blessing. And a pyre here is just the sort of thing to get the notice of the forces we'll need to curry favor with. Let's grab everything we need to and torch the rest."


"You're the expert," Blade concedes, and moves to help Moon Knight. They grab things that are easy to carry, items that are of use to the occultists and cultists alike. They're tossed unceremoniously into large duffel bags, and once both the men have an adequate burden, Blade starts waking up the chilled hostages and unceremoniously herding the staggered individuals out the door. It's a little cold in Gotham, sure, but there will be some heat soon. That'll bring the cops as well.

Blade checks one last time for any pilferables or valuables he can tuck in his pocket, then unleashes the thermite cores and tosses them into the storage area. He and Moon Knight beat feet from the covert facility and once they're a half block away, Blade stops them near his parked Charger.

"Fire's fire. It'll purify the rest of the artifacts. Destroy their taint. Even if they can be salvaged they won't ever work the same."

There's a *KABOOM* from the tattoo parlor, which Blade ignores as he meticulously tugs his gloves into place. "A little accelerant next to the propane tank don't hurt, neither."

Looking back at the fire, Moon Knight nods. "Hopefully we didn't forget anything."

Flaming debris from the explosion smashes into the hood of Lockley's parked cab, which itself catches fire and, moments later, bursts apart from its own explosion.

Moon Knight clenches his jaw, his teeth grinding quietly. "Jake, you son of a bitch…" he mutters.

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