Three days into 2002 Alison and Red were almost ready to leave New York
City for the foreseeable future. They had spent the past three days staying
in a cheap hotel, counting their winnings, and buying things. They still had
over one million dollars left after the multi-million dollar free-for-all
back at Rockefeller Center. Red had no problem keeping it; it was DI&R's
money and they owed him. Besides, he and Alison had literally nothing but
the clothes on their back and an apocalypse plague. The money came in handy.
They bought themselves a car. They picked up a wardrobe to last them a little
while. Suitcases to put the clothes in.
There were a few small things they still had to deal with before going for
good. Fortunately, they'd come up with a way to take care of them before they
Red sat behind the steering wheel of a red BMW M3 convertible looking through
a pair of huge binoculars. Far down the street, Argento was sitting behind
the wheel of a parked white van. He was drinking a Yoo-hoo as he kept watch
over Alison's home. He had done his best to look inconspicuous as Mr. and
Mrs. Innes had left earlier, little knowing that his surveillance was under
"What's he doing?" Alison asked from the passenger seat. "Does
he see us?"
"No," said Red. "He has no idea." He handed the binoculars
to her. "Let's make our move."
"I'm ready," Alison said, taking a look for herself through the
binoculars at Argento.
Red hit the switch to bring the car's top down. He rolled down all the windows
with the power window switches on his door handle. He whipped out his sword
with his left hand while he started up the car with his right. He slammed
on the gas and peeled down Alison's road going about 60 miles per hour.
"He sees us now!" Alison shouted over the roar of the wind.
Before Argento even had the chance to start his engine, Red was zipping right
past him, his sword slicing through the van with less resistance than the
wind gave his arm. Red slammed the brakes and spun the car around to a stop,
not quite even with the curb, but close enough for holy work.
Red sheathed his sword and hopped out of the beemer. "Get out of the
van," Red said called to Argento. "Let's not make a scene."
"This isn't a scene?" Argento asked, climbing over to the passenger
side of the vehicle to exit.
"No," said Red, "This is a couple of old pals catching up.
A scene is what happens if you give us trouble."
"Red, I told you," Argento said, "I'm on your side." He
came around to the other side of the van.
"Nice midriff!" Alison said, breaking out laughing. Red joined
"Oh, thank you very much," Argento said flatly. His shirt had been
sliced through just above the belly button. The bottom part now hung limply
from where it was tucked into his pants, exposing his stomach.
"Been working out?" Red asked.
Argento went around to the passenger side of the van again and took out his
overcoat. He put it on and wrapped it around himself before coming back to
them. "Is this why you came?" Argento asked. "To mock me?"
"Isn't that enough, Frank?" Red asked pacing about in front of
Argento. "No, Alison wanted to grab some things, as I'm sure you guessed,
considering that you're here."
Argento chuckled. "Something like that."
"You can keep your smug little chuckles to yourself, thanks," Red
said. "I think I've been the butt of enough of your stupid jokes."
"Red… I know you're upset, I can understand that, what they did
to you was unpardonable, but-"
"What 'They'?" Red asked. "You're one of those 'They's, remember?"
"Red, I know how you feel, I just-"
"How can you know? Did they do this to you, strip you of your very self?"
"I don't know," said Argento. "How would I?"
Red stopped pacing. "Oh… well, yeah, ok, but… that's not
the point. Even if they did, you don't know it, you don't know that you're
not who you're supposed to be."
"No argument here. It was wrong. It was wrong from the beginning. Taking
your family, taking your friends, taking Alison… there's no excuse for
what was done. DI&R thinks they are acting in God's name, an most of the
time they do good, but this time…"
"They can do what they want," said Red. "I'm not going to
play their stupid mind games any more."
"Good for you," Argento said, "Show them they can't pull this
sort of nonsense any more."
"You're absolutely right. I hope they never see hide nor hair of you
again. Why do you think I didn't tell them about Alison? She's better off
with you and Kimmy is better off a depressive than with a sick bastard like
"So you're saying you're not here to try to bring us in?" Alison
"Of course I am," Argento replied. "Since he doesn’t
have you yet, Hayden blames me for this whole mess. My 'punishment' is being
officially assigned to tracking you down and bringing you in. I won't be able
to resume my regular duties until I do so."
"And?" said Red. "You think you can take us?"
"Heavens no, and I've no intention to," Argento said. "To
be honest with you I only came here because I never thought you'd show up.
I figured it would seem reasonable to Hayden, you coming for Alison again,
but, well, you have Alison with you, so…"
"Like I said," said Red, "She needed a few things."
"Speaking of which, do you have any idea why Hayden thinks you're running
around with a girl called 'Alchemy'?"
Red and Alison exchanged a befuddled look.
"Didn't think so," said Argento. "Red, as far as I'm concerned,
you have nothing to worry about. They want me to find you. I won't. They're
already looking for your replacement. In a year or so, they'll stop caring
and you can live your lives in peace."
Red eyed Argento for a moment. "Are you serious? You're not going to
be… hounding our every step?"
"No," said Argento. "You may go in peace."
"Oh…" said Red, "And here I came all prepared to negotiate
our freedom. Well… ok. Here." He pulled a key out of his pocket
and tossed it towards Argento. It his him in the chest and he caught it on
it's way down.
"A locker key. The plague's in the locker. I figured you guys would
be better suited for getting rid of it than us, and it would be a little too
nerve wracking taking it with us where ever we go."
"Where are you headed?"
"I've never done much traveling," said Red. "At least… not
that I remember. We thought we'd go cross country. Maybe find a nice spot
in California once we wind up there."
"I don't know," said Argento, smirking. "You never really
cared for California much whenever we would-"
"So where's the locker?"
"In the city," said Red.
"Funny. What station?" Argento asked.
"You'll find it. Take your time."
"You're joking, right?"
"I'm sure Alison and I will laugh, but you… I don't think so much.
At any rate, I think we're going to get moving."
"Red," Argento said, "One more thing. Is… there anything
you want to know? About… about yourself?"
"I already know everything about myself," said Red. "It's
you bunch who've got it all messed up." Red walked around to the back
on the van and opened the door. "Now the way I figure it is this: you
tell them you ran into me, we got into a scuffle, I dropped the key, but got
away. That will give you an excuse to go checking lockers rather than come
after us, since you won't necessarily have any leads on where we are anyway.
How does that sound?"
"Not bad, not bad," said Argento. "But there's one thing-
I would never be able to hold my own against a Saint. They know that."
"Hmm… good point," said Red, unsurprised. "We'll, I
guess I've got to do what I've got to do." He pushed back his sleeves.
"This was part of your plan from the beginning, wasn't it?" Argento
"I'm afraid so," said Red, "But you have to understand I'll
take no pleasure in it whatsoever."
"I find that hard to believe."
"That's because I'm lying. You ready?"
Argento looked around for a moment, took his coat off, tossed it to the curb,
then sighed and steadied himself. "… Ok… no hard feelings
Red launched forward and his fist shot out towards Argento's jaw with astoundingly
jarring force. He followed the opening punch with a left to the nose and then
another with his right at Argento's temple. Argento fell over, blood from
his nose pouring out onto his shirt. Red kicked him I the stomach once or
twice before Alison grabbed his arm.
"Red," she said. "I think he's out."
"Frank?" he said. When Argento gave no reply, he said, "Not
too many hard feelings. Ok, part two of the fun." He picked up Argento
and put him into the back of the van.
"Here's his coat," Alison said, holding up Argento's overcoat.
Red slipped his arms into it and buttoned it up in front. In the pockets he
found gloves. He put them on. He reached into the back seat of the BMW, pulling
out his backpack. Opening it, he grabbed the mask Alison had used for so long
and slipped it over his face.
"How do I look?" he asked.
"A hell of a lot better than the real one," Alison said.
Red reached back into the bag for the handkerchief and chloroform. He doused
the hanky liberally, then put the bottle in Argento's hand. "I'll be
right back," he said to Alison.
He jogged his way up to the door of Alison's house. He could hear the faint
sounds of loud music coming from within. He rang the doorbell. After a minute
he rang it again. He heard the music stop and then footsteps came thumping
down the stairs. The new deadbolt clicked and the door opened up, the bemakeuped
Goth Alison peeking her head out from around the side of it. She eyed him
"Can I help you?" she said.
"Ah, yes," said Red. His voice had shifted to that creepy monotone,
but he tried to speak more like Argento would. It felt awkward. "My name
is Francis Argento, and my, ah, my van is having, ah, trouble. I wondered
if I might use your phone?"
"Don't you have a cell phone?"
"I'm afraid its, ah… dead."
She looked at him for a few moments more and then said, "Alright. Come
on in." She opened the door the rest of the way.
"Thank you very much," he said.
She closed the door behind him. "The phone's this way," she said
and began walking towards the kitchen.
Red grabbed her from behind and forced the hanky over her face. She was surprisingly
strong, which made sense to Red in retrospect since she was a trained killer.
She had forgotten her skills though, and after a minute or so she stopped
fighting and went limp. Red brought her over to the couch and lay her down
"Sorry, Kimmy," he said. "I know the last thing you need is
He took off his own mask and went back outside, waving to the real Alison
to come inside.
"Is she ok?" Alison asked.
"She'll be fine," Red said. "She's out cold."
"Good," said Alison. "Let's go upstairs."
They headed up to Alison's room. As they opened the door they heard a strange
questioning "Mrrow?" from Alison's desk chair, where Chaser had
"Chaser!" Alison said, "We came back for you! Psss, psss,
psss!" She knelt by the chair and rubbed his little gray face, causing
his purr engine to start up. "I've missed you so much, little one!"
"He is pretty cute," Red agreed.
"You're going to come with us on a trip, little man! How does that sound,
"Do cat's like trips?" Red asked.
"Not usually, no," Alison said. "But I'm not leaving him behind."
"I would never ask you to," Red said. "Let's get his things.
Where's his travel… thing?"
"Down in the kitchen closet," said Alison.
Red ran downstairs and opened up the closet in the kitchen and grabbed the
large hard plastic cat carrying case he saw there. He also grabbed a plastic
bag and filled it up with the catfood, treats, and toys that sat on a few
of the shelves. He brought it all back upstairs.
"Here we go," he said.
Alison was sitting on her bed reading. "Check this out," she said.
"What is it?" Red asked.
"My journal. Hers, now. Anyway, read this. It's a poem she wrote a week
or so ago."
"Is it any good?" Red asked, putting down the cat things and sitting
next to her.
"No, it's terrible. But read it."
Red took the book from her and read:
"From within, I can feel it
In the pit of my stomach it lies,
Clawing my innards,
Until the truth will out
When I look in the mirror,
The reflection mocks me,
Showing only a vague shape
Where my identity should be
Sometimes I feel the urge
To tear off my face
And find my true self
When those around me see
What I truly am
Will they see the angel?
Or the whore?"
Red looked at Alison quizzically. "How does she…?"
"The mirror, Red," said Alison. "The masks don't work on the
person wearing them. Just like you didn't see Simon as you, he didn't see
himself as you, either. When she looks in the mirror, she can't see her own
face. I saw the same thing when I was her for so long."
"Oh god… what do we do?" Red asked.
"I don't know," said Alison. "Can we just leave her here?
People will think there's something seriously wrong with her."
"If she has the mind of that other you, there is something seriously
wrong with her. You did try to kill yourself."
"I did more than try…"
"She's been doing a lot of writing," said Red, flipping through
the book. She had filled up fifty or sixty pages in only a week or so. He
flipped to the last entry and skimmed it. "Hmm… Al, listen to this.
'I finally heard back from one of the magazines! The editor of Darkly
Into Night called me up to tell me he wants to run a few of my poems and wants
to see more of my work…' She talks about that a bit more… 'Mom
and Dad are so proud of me…' yadda yadda… '… Meds seem to
be kicking in…' 'Shawn's been coming by to check on me…' Who's
"I have no idea," said Alison. "Probably some guy with piercings."
Red closed the book. "She doesn't seem to be doing half bad," he
"I guess a blurry face is easier to deal with than prophetic flashes," Alison
"I wonder how she puts her make-up on?"
"You all set?" Red asked, rising. "You don't want to take
"It's not my stuff," she said. "It's far more hers than mine."
"I know how you feel."
"I'll grab Chaser," Alison said. "You run back down to the
kitchen and get the litterbox and litter."
"Meet you down there," said Red. He found the litterbox off in
the back corner of the kitchen closet. He dumped it out into a nearby garbage
can, grabbed the two bags of litter that had been sitting beside it, put them
in the box, and headed out to the foyer. After a moment Alison came down the
stairs carrying the case, now containing Chaser, and the bag Red had filled.
"Are you going to be ok with this?" Red asked. "Leaving behind
everything you knew once and for all?"
"I may know this place, but it doesn't know me," she said.
Red watched her give the house one last look.
"I hope you feel better, Kimmy," she said.
They headed out to the car and loaded the cat and his things into the back
seat. Red took off Argento's coat and gloves and tossed them onto his unconscious
form. He took a cell phone out of Argento's pocket. He hopped into the BMW
and started it up. As he waited for the top to come back up, he dialed 911
on Argento's phone.
"Do the honors, dear?" he said, handing it to Alison.
"Sure," she said. She took the phone and waited for a moment. "Oh,
thank God! You've got to help me! My name is Alison Innes, I live at 235 Lily
Court Rd. in New Hyde Park, there's a man here, he's trying to kidnap me,
you've got to help me! Please, come quick!" She hung up the phone and
handed it back to Red. He tossed it out the window. "How did I do?"
"Beautiful performance, my dear," Red said. He began driving. "Between
that and the locker key, I'm sure we'll keep Argento busy long enough to start
our 'cross country road trip'."
"Do you think he bought that?" Alison asked.
"Why wouldn't he?" Red asked. "It would make sense for us
to get as far away as we could."
"But Argento said he wasn't even going to try to find us."
"And I hope he doesn't. But in case he changes his mind after this little
stunt, we'll just do near the opposite of what we said. We'll head back home."
"You've never seen mommy's home town have you, Chaser?"
The cat meowed at his own name.
"Hey! He's a smart one," Red said. "Hey, if you're the mommy,
do I get to be the daddy?"
"Down, boy," Alison said.
"Well, you are my fiancée."
"I wonder if we set a date…"
"Maybe we would have been married by now."
"Maybe we were married. I mean, for all we know…"
"Maybe we weren't even engaged," said Red. "It's best not
to think about it. Otherwise we'll end up driving ourselves crazy worrying
about people who don't know us, questioning our every decision, wondering
who that blonde was-"
"Yeah, who was that blonde?" said Alison.
"How should I know?"
"She seemed to know you pretty well…"
"What are you, jealous?" Red asked.
"No! Just curious…"
"Even if I slept with her fifty-thousand times, I wouldn't remember
"As if that excuses you!" Alison said.
"For all we know, you slept with her," Red sighed. "Or they
could have… just picked a random person and made them think they know
"Or she could have been an actress."
"You see what I mean?" said Red, pulling onto the car rental lot. "This
is pointless. You and I remember things our way. We're together. We have each
other. Us against the world. What else do we need?"
"OK, yeah. But what else do we need?"
"But, what else?"
"Alright, you," he said, hopping out of the car. He took a set
of keys from his pocket and tossed them to her. "Load up the kitten."
He headed into the office and turned in the keys to the BMW. They had been
only too happy to rent it to him, even though he was under 25, when he agreed
to quadruple their charge. He headed back out to Alison who was now waiting
for him in the passenger seat of their used 1999 Mercury Sable. Chaser was
curled up on the floor of his case napping. Red smiled.
"Ready to hit the road, Goggles?" she said as he got into the car.
"I can't wait," he said.
They pulled out of the lot and headed off towards home.