It had been several weeks since Banzai had patrolled Baltimore properly. She'd spent break at home in LA patrolling there (and had somehow come back to the island with stripper heels and contact information for Regenerator and she wasn't entirely sure how either of those things had happened but thankfully they weren't related). Then had come the accidental trip to Dante's world which had been traumatizing enough to keep her off the streets, followed by Homecoming, and then finishing off her college applications and SAT II studying. And, then, of course, she'd gotten a nasty cold from the weekend without power, which had kept her in bed and miserable for a few days and so, yeah, it had been almost a month since Banzai had made an appearance.
Time to see what she'd missed in over the last few weeks. A month was a long time to leave the Ukrainians alone. Long enough for them to get cocky and let down their guard if she were lucky. Long enough for them to get deeply entrenched if she were really unlucky.
At first, Banzai thought she'd gotten lucky. Her patrol was quiet. Real quiet. It took her several hours to realize that it was a little too quiet. At first, she assumed that it was simply November at work; street-level petty crime tended to dip once it started getting cold. But even so, it hadn't been cold enough to account for this many missing faces. Several well-known drug dealers had vanished and no one had stepped in to claim their locations. Looking around the club areas, she could only spot two of the regular pickpockets working the crowds, instead of the five or six she was used to. More disturbingly, a number of working girls were missing and even a few of the homeless folks she knew, both those that Banzai hired as lookouts and informants and those Kathy bought coffee and lunches for when she was in Baltimore without her mask.
So when she did finally spot someone she knew, she wasted no time in flipping her way down to the street to find out just what the hell was going on. Jewels was a pretty girl, only a few years older than Kathy herself, and had started working the streets just about the time that Kathy had come East to school. They'd met when Banzai had stopped a prospective john from giving Jewels anything worse than a black eye (she'd felt guilty about not being able to stop him from doing even that much). Banzai had stopped by a week later to hand over one of those sharp kitty-shaped keychains and after that, a decent working relationship had been born, with Banzai slipping Jewels a bit of cash from time to time and Jewels keeping an ear out for news that might interest the superhero.
If Jewels had been one of the missing, Banzai would have freaked.
"Hey," she said, swinging down to land lightly on the pavement next to the other girl. "Jewels, where--"
That's all she managed to say before Jewels spun around and dragged her in for a tight hug. "Banzai!" she cried, squeezing hard enough Banzai heard her ribs creak. "Oh god, I thought you were dead!"
"Dead?" Banzai wheezed. "No, just not around. But what--"
"You don't understand, I thought he'd come early and gotten you!"
"Who?" Banzai asked, finally managing to pull out of Jewels' clinging hug. "He who?"
"Oh!" Jewels said, cornflower eyes wide with surprise. "You don't know! You haven't heard!"
"I have no idea what you're talking about at all," Banzai said, brow furrowed in confusion. "I've been...away...and got back just in time to notice all the people who've gone missing." Her jaw set. "Jewels, is someone snatching people off the streets?"
"What? Oh! No. Well, I mean, not yet," Jewels amended. "No, people have been getting out while there's still time. Word on the street is that he's coming and no one wants to be here when he shows up."
Okay, so everyone had left of their own volition. That was good. Terrifying in its implications, but still better than the alternative. "He who?" she asked again.
"The Butcher of Kiev," Jewels whispered, like saying his name could summon him from the shadows. "The Ukrainians have asked for help from the Butcher of Kiev. And he's coming here. Sometime within the week."
"Someone goes around calling himself the Butcher of Kiev?" Banzai scoffed. "Is he going to be accompanied by the Baker of Istanbul and the Candlestick Maker of Prague?"
"Laugh all you want, Banzai," Jewels said, bleached curls bouncing off her shoulders. "But he's nobody to tangle with. Not even for you. You might want to pick a new city to patrol because once the Butcher gets here, Baltimore's going to belong to the Ukrainians. And they don't like you at all."
[Open for calls or anyone out in Baltimore, but likely to be slow, as I have a vdistinctive! NFB for distance]
- Baltimore, Sunday Night