[AC] Mysteria #11

Jason Kenney jasonkenney at gmail.com
Sat Feb 5 22:08:13 PST 2005

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Mysteria #11
"Coping Strategies"
By Robert Flynn and Jason S. Kenney
Takes place after Bush43 #18


Jack Crowley did not wait for the door to completely open, slipping in
and past Alfonse Saint Libatique as he sucked intently on his
cigarette. His eyes moved around the foyer, the broken furniture still
lying about, the blood smeared floor only partially cleaned, a bucket
sitting near what looked to be one particularly bad spot.

The spot where Layla Burke finally died.

"So they've already taken the body?" asked Crowley as he exhaled, his
cigarette bobbing in the corner of his mouth as he spoke.

"Crowley," said Alfonse with a clear of his throat, "this is currently
no place for children."

Crowley glanced over his shoulder to see Alfonse standing in the
doorway, arms cross, shielding the other guest from the site of the

"Don't worry, Alf," said Crowley as he flicked ash onto the floor and
turned back to where the Burke matriarch took her last breath. "I'm
sure she's seen worse. Haven't you, Didi?"

The little girl poked her head around Alfonse's legs and glared at
Crowley but remained silent.

"Is there anything I can help you with?" asked Alfonse with a glare of
his own.

"You can keep your mouth shut," said Crowley as he squatted and stuck
his hand onto the floor and into a spot of blood.

He closed his eyes and mumbled to himself as Alfonse and Didi looked

"Fuck," he said, his eyes shooting open. He pulled his hand out and
stubbed his cigarette out in the blood on the floor. "That Bush kid got
stabbed in here, didn't he?" he asked as he looked at his hand and
turned to Alfonse. The butler didn't answer. "Shit, not like I needed
to do that, I guess," Crowley said, more to himself than the others in
the room.

Alfonse didn't answer, instead clearing his throat again and repeating
his last words.

"Is there anything I can help you with?"

"No," Crowley said, walking to Alfonse and proceeding to wipe his hand
on the butler's coat, ignoring the man's stare with a smirk. "But I can
help you."

"Perhaps by getting out of my head," said Alfonse, getting a wider
smirk from the intruder.

"Perhaps." Crowley pulled a pack of cigarettes out of his pocket and
fished one out, sticking it between his lips. "Or perhaps I can tell
you who killed your precious Layla and probably where to find her."


"Victoria," said Jeffery Carter as he eased Victoria Burke down to her
knees, pulling his George W. Bush mask off with one hand while the
other held onto her as if she'd fall without him. "Victoria, are you

"Why, Jeffery?" Burke sobbed into his shoulder, her hands clutching
onto her shirt, her nails digging into his shoulder and back. "I didn't
even get to tell her..."

"Shhh..." said Carter as he dropped his mask and brought his hand to
the back of her head. "I'm sorry, Victoria, I'm sorry."

And Burke sobbed harder, her body shaking Carter's with her.

Carter looked up and around, trying to think of something to say or at
the very least a way to get them off this rooftop, out of plain sight,
out of harms way.

Because she was still out there. Because Victoria Burke wasn't safe.

"Victoria," Carter said, his lips close to her ear, "we need to move."

Burke choked back another sob and picked her head up off of Carter

"Jeffery," she said, looking into his face, "my mother..."

"I know," Carter said, resting a hand on her shoulder in what he hoped
was a comforting manner. "I know, Vicky, and I'm sorry, I really am,
and I'm here for you. But we can't stay here because it's not safe. The
woman that killed your mother..."

"Woman?" interrupted Burke, her face, her glare hardening. "How do you
know it was a woman that killed my mother, Jeffery?"

Carter opened his mouth to speak but hesitated. He did not know what to
expect here.

"Because I saw her, Vicky," he said with a sigh. "Because..."

"You saw her?" Burke pushed herself away and onto her feet. "What do
you mean you saw..."

"I walked in," said Carter as he rose to his feet as well. "On her. On
her trying to kill... On her doing..."

"You walked in on her while she was killing my mother?" asked Burke,
Carter nodding. "And you didn't stop her?"

"Vicky," said Carter, reaching out to Burke's arm, "I tried, but..."

Burke knocked his arm away.



"I'm afraid I have a confession to make," said Crowley as he lit his
cigarette, taking a large drag and blowing it towards the ceiling of
Burke Manor.

"Then there is a church down the road," said Alfonse, still immobile
against his own wishes.

"Cheeky," said Crowley with a smirk and a pinch of Alfonse's cheek.
"But I ain't looking for forgiveness here." Crowley turned and walked
towards the blood again. "Nope, this is strictly business. Or, more
specifically, how this," he nodded towards the blood, "isn't my

Crowley sighed and looked over his shoulder to Alfonse.

"I never told Vicky this, but I met her mother once. More importantly,
I met her half-sister."


"I need you to find someone for me, Mister Crowley. I need you to find
my father."


Victoria Burke disappeared.

"Vicky, wai..." started Carter, cut off as a punch caught under his
chin and shut his mouth. He stumbled back, holding his jaw, looking
around for a sign of where Burke was.

"Vicky," he started again, "please, just listen."

"You let her die," Carter heard to his right, turning into a kick that
caught him in the gut. He cried out a pain raced through his body, a
day old wound's attempts to heal hindered even more.

"Victoria, please..."

Carter tried to gasp as Burke's hand tightly grasped his throat. She
suddenly reappeared in front of him, tears running down her cheeks.

"Where were you Jeffery?" she asked through gritted teeth as Carter
grabbed at her hand around his throat. "Where were you for my father?
Where were you for my mother?" Carter opened his mouth but nothing came
out. Or went in. "WHAT KIND OF A HERO ARE YOU?!?!!"

And then she let go and fell to her knees again, leaving Carter gasping
for air as she stared at her hands and sobbed.

"What... why couldn't..." She shook her head and closed her eyes. "She
died because of me, Jeffery. Because..."

"Vicky, you didn't... there's nothing you could..."

"Because of me, Jeffery," said Burke, opening her eyes and staring down
into her hands in her lap. "How many people, Jeffery?"

A drop of blood fell into her hands.

Victoria Burke looked up to see the tip of the Imperial Magistrate's
sword an inch from her face as it protruded from Jeffery Carter's


"You're not going to like it."

"I didn't ask to like it, Mister Crowley. I just want the truth."

Crowley shrugged and opened a drawer to his desk, pulling out a folder
and tossing it in front of the lady who simply stared at it, not moving
from her position in the chair across from his desk, legs crossed,
hands clenched firmly together in her lap. Crowley leaned back and
fished a cigarette out of it's pack, offering one to the lady who shook
her head, and returned her stare to the folder.

"His name is Henry Burke." Her eyes moved back to him, and he smirked
as he lit the cigarette. He was always a sucker for eyes. He took his
time as he inhaled and exhaled smoke from his cigarette. "If they
name's familiar, it's because it should be. One of the five richest men
in Australia."

She finally moved, leaning forward and reaching for the folder.
Crowley's hand rested on hers as soon as she touched it.

"You've got your money," she said, shooting him a glare.

"So I do," he said with a smile. "For an extra five, I'll tell ya about
his 'daughter'," he said, making quote marks in the air with his free


Victoria Burke caught Jeffery Carter as he slid off of the sword and
into her arms.

"That was much easier than last time," said the woman as she took a
step back but held the sword up and ready.

Burke was too stunned to speak, looking from the woman with the sword
to Carter as he bled in her arms.

"Though let's hope he stays down after this one," continued the woman,
"just to give us some time alone."

The woman's lips parted in a smile, her green eyes burning in the light
of the setting sun.

Burke laid Carter on his back and thought to put her hands over his
gut, pressure on the wound, but then thought of how it went all the way
through and hesitated, looking back to the woman, looking back to
Carter, her mind racing.

"C'mon, Victoria," said the woman, beckoning her to come, "let's see if
you put up more of a fight than your mother."

There was a second when Burke's face turned to a look of shock, eyes
wide, mouth hanging open, and it made the woman laugh.

And Burke suddenly disappeared with a scream of rage.

"Oh I do hope you aren't running away," shouted the woman as she looked
around but stayed ready. She quickly turned her head to her right and
reached out, grabbing at the air and holding something as she brought
the hilt of her sword around and smashed it a foot away.

Burke suddenly appeared with a scream, hopping away and clutching her

"Surely you've got more than that, Vicky dear."

Burke planted her good leg and leapt at the woman, ducked low to dodge
a blow from the sword and brought a fist into the woman's face, sending
her staggering back as Burke tried to remain balanced without putting
too much weight on her knee.

The woman stopped and held her sword up and ready again, her free hand
rubbing the blood from under her nose.

"Much better," she said, spitting a glob of blood at Burke's feet. "But
try that again," she said as she gripped her sword with both hands.

"I'll do you one better, bitch," said Burke through clenched teeth as
she wrenched the scarab from the chain around her neck.

And Victoria Burke began to glow.


Jack Crowley stood up from his seat with a smirk that the lady in red
had not seen. Nor had she even seen him stand, her talking to the air
where he once was as he waltzed through the restaurant, the other
patrons trying hard not to obviously look at this well known socialite
talking to nothing.

Crowley followed someone out the door, snuck through before it closed,
and fished a pack of cigarettes out of his pocket, shaking one loose
and tossing it in his mouth.

"Got a light?" Crowley asked the valet who nearly leapt out of his skin
when he noticed the man suddenly standing next to him.

"Bloody hell, where'd you come from?" replied the valet as he pulled a
lighter out of his pocket.

Crowley smiled as he had his cigarette lit, leaving the question
without an answer.

He nodded his thanks, turned, and started down the sidewalk.

He walked three blocks and stopped by a payphone, digging into his
pocket as he picked up the receiver, fed the phone coins and began to

"Contact with Ms. Burke has been made," he told the voice on the other
end, a smile playing on his lips.


The Asian woman smiled as wings seemed to burst from Victoria Burke's
back, her entire body glowing with white light as it lifted into the

A sword formed in Burke's hand, white fire dancing around its blade,
matching the flames that seemed to leap from Burke's eyes.

With a scream of rage she threw herself at the smiling woman, both
holding their swords before themselves, the Asian woman planting her
feet, twisting slightly to hold her sword back, tensing at Burke

Then she matched Burke's scream as she brought her sword around and the
two clashed.


"I have a feeling there is something you are not telling me," said
Alfonse as he watched Crowley walk past him but couldn't turn his head
to see him continue.

"Nothing more than you've been keeping close," said Crowley with a snap
of his fingers.

Alfonse found himself able to move again. He spun to see Crowley in the
doorway, a smirk on his face.

"Your secrets haven't been your own for a long time, old chap," said
Crowley. "Watch the kid for me," Crowley said, nodding towards Didi who
stood silently to the side, clutching her bear.

"And get the first aid kit ready; I'm sure we're going to need it."

And Jack Crowley stepped into the night.


"She trusts me," said Crowley to the woman, taking a drag off of his
cigarette, blowing the smoke into the air.

The apartment was plush, rich, and he felt very out of place in it. But
he wasn't going to shun the perk.

"How much does she trust you?" asked the woman who stood stiffly across
the room from him, arms crossed, a glare focused squarely on Crowley, a
glare he loved. If only this weren't business...

He smirked and laughed slightly, stubbing his cigarette out in the
expensive looking teacup on the expensive looking coffee table in front
of him.

"I do believe she's in love with me."


The Asian woman tumbled as the force of her impact pushed her back,
coming to her feet in time to duck a swing of Burke's sword. She came
back up with her sword, blocking another swing from Burke and lashing
out with her leg, catching the angelic form in her gut.

With a laugh the Asian woman turned and ran, leaping from one roof to
the next. Burke, teeth clenched, seethed and growled, again screaming
into the night as she surged forward after the woman.

"WHY?" she shouted as she brought her sword around, the Asian woman
turning just in time to block with hers. Burke pulled back to avoid
another kick, held her sword up to block an attack from the Asian
woman, and lifted into the air.

"Because your mother was a whore!" shouted the woman, her smile
faltering as she glowered at Burke.

Burke screamed again and dove at the woman. The Asian woman silently
brought her sword around and slashed...


"What exactly is it you plan on doing to her?" asked Crowley as he lit
a cigarette, the flame of his lighter illuminating his face, hers still
distant enough to remain shroudedd in the darkness.

"I want her to pay for what she's done to my father's name."


Victoria Burke screamed a different noise than before, one of more
physical pain as she hit the ground, her angelic visage fading quickly
like a light turning off. She clutched her wrist as she bounced off the
roof hard, her severed hand landing several feet away, a scarab
skittering across the roof from it's open fingers.

The Asian woman scoffed as she brought the tip of her sword to Burke's

"You're obviously no Burke," she said, pushing the tip slightly,
pulling blood.

Rage overpowered the pain, and Burke slapped the sword away with her
injured arm and leapt at the woman. It was easily side stepped, and
Burke gasped as her hair was grabbed. The Asian woman moved quickly,
two slashes into Burke's back, then pushed her forward.

Burke stumbled and landed face first on the roof, her good hand
alternating between reaching for her now cut back and for her bleeding
right wrist.

"Your father couldn't handle a door to the face, your mother..." The
Asian woman laughed. "Your mother died like she lived, begging, on her
knees, like a whore."

The woman stepped towards Burke, her grip tightening on the sword.

"Just like her bastard daughter will die."

"'Fraid not, dear."

The woman kept her stare fixed on the cowering figure of Burke lying
before her, her teeth clenched as tight as her fists around the sword's

"Your work is done, Crowley," she said without looking at the man
behind her. "Your services are no longer needed."

"You've changed the terms," he stated as he fished a cigarette out of
its pack. "This was not part of the agreement."

"Fuck the agreement!" spat the woman as she wished she could move, knew
that it was no use. "Let me finish this!"

"Why finish it?" Crowley asked, pausing as he lit his cigarette,
starting to walk towards the two woman as he took a long drag.
"Imagine," he said with an exhale of smoke, "how is she going to react
if you don't kill her? When your friend makes his move?" Crowley
stopped next to the Asian woman, leaned close, blew smoke in her face.

"Imagine her reaction when you make her watch her world keep falling

"I don't..." started the woman through clenched teeth.

"And when it's over," continued Crowley, turning from the woman,
stepping towards Burke and looking down on her, "when you've taken
everything from her, when she has nothing left, not even her name..."
He looked to the woman.

Her glare did not soften, but he knew she understood what he was
getting at.

Crowley crouched down and gently rolled Victoria Burke over, picking
her up as she wrapped her arms around his shoulders and neck and
clutched onto him, sobbing.

"I'll be in touch, Emma," he said as he walked past the Asian woman.

A few seconds later, she found herself able to move, spun, and found
the roof empty.

And she screamed into the night.


Thomas Stevenson was dead.

And that fact now made them four instead of five.

Richard Daggon leaned back in his seat, looking to each of the three
men who sat in chairs on the other side of his desk.

"Victoria Burke is a strong suspect in her mother's murder," Daggon
said, his mind adding in another fact that he kept to himself.

No, it was not for these men to know Victoria Burke's secret.

"Emotionally, she is a mess and in no condition to continue to run
Burke Enterprises," he continued.

Daggon pushed himself out of his chair and turned to look out the
window that afforded him a majestic view of Pacific City.

"We have given her months to get herself together enough to continue
allowing a Burke to run what her father worked hard to build. But she
has failed."

He was preaching to the choir, he knew. He turned to the men and leaned
forward, planting his hands firmly on his desk.

"Her lack of leadership has left this company floundering. We're losing
innovation and placement to competition. Burke Enterprises is falling
apart at the seams."

This was practice.

"So I say we invoke Section Three of Clause Five in her contract and
vote to force her to liquidate her majority holdings in the company
under the conditions that she is in no capacity to remain as CEO of
Burke Enterprises."

The three other men each smirked and nodded in agreement.

"Gentlemen, tomorrow morning this company will be ours."

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