Of Love and Gun Smoke
Author's Note: This is a first-person noir/action FFVI story involving the treasure-hunter Locke turned private detective. The setting is still in the FFVI world, but set like Chicago in the year 1930. However, the city that the story takes place is Figaro, which kind of rhymes with Chicago. Anyway, Locke is a detective/mercenary hired by his best and only friend Terra Branford to find the kidnapped baby, Hope, of Duane and Katarin of Mobliz, along with retrieving a rare artifact called the Maltese Maduin (Bogart rip-off sorry) that is very dear to Terra. Locke unfortunately faces the reoccurring pain of love, and has a personal struggle to overcome it throughout the story. In this story, there are also some jazz references that span decades, but just work with me please. The other characters don't have a real serious relationship with Locke, with some as just people he's never heard of or has heard of, but some who'll be very important to Locke later on.
Part 1: The Game is on…
“Uncle Locke! Watch me!” A tyke playfully yells as he goes up and down on a swing set. I could only smile pleasantly as I saw dozens of little, innocent kids run around me and play with me. I felt like I was in paradise. I walked around to the garden with the kids following me. Terra Branford was there, as beautiful as she could ever be, in her work clothes and overalls, barefoot in the garden planting. She wiped the sweat off her brow and walked over to me. My God she was gorgeous.
“They really do love you tiger, just like I do.” She says to me wraps her arms around me and gives me a kiss. It felt like heaven…but then something strange happened. The sky rumbled and turned blood red. The children were getting upset and started crying. Then I notice a car screeching down the street, with men inside and their guns drawn.
“OH SHIT! TERRA…GET DOWN!”
I scream as the men open fire, causing me to jump on her. All I can hear is screaming, crying, and gunfire as I cover myself over Terra. All I hear are screams of “Mama” and Terra yelling for the children. I look over and all I could see to my horror were dead children and armed men in all black come over and point the guns right at us. I closed my eyes and held Terra tight. The crack of the gun went off, and I woke up from my nightmare, covered in sweat, breathing heavily, sitting on my desk.
“God I'm gettin' sick of this.” I thought to myself rather regrettably as I stared up to the ceiling watching the fan go around and around for hours. I watch as the smoke from the lit Lucky Strike cig in my mouth sifts through the air with each puff. The office was a mess, cluttered with papers as high as skyscrapers. The lighting was so poor that even the bugs had a tough time seeing. Life was as lonely as a ghost in this little apartment/office. Every day and night I have to deal with my landlord Strago Magus, an old codger who goes on and on and on about the old days, when life was better and kids showed respect for elders.
I couldn't help but agree. Life was better in the past. What the hell was I thinking goin' for this gumshoe bit? A treasure-hunter like me had it all, money, adventure, and a beautiful broad named Rachel. Now it's all gone to hell. Rachel died from a car wreck years ago…which left me in pieces and her picture on my desk still eats me up inside, as did my time with Terra. I've gone through dozens of cases, and all I've got to show for them is a measly income and five bullet wounds to boot. Oh I remember those lead kisses…they sting every time I think about 'em. The scars still serve as a reminder of what happens when I'm not on my toes 24/7.
Ah the city of Figaro. What a grand place. Yeah right. The city's been hit with crime so hard it'll make anyone's head spin. Seems that old Gestahl's Gang still likes to try and run things here. Poor Gov. Edgar Figaro…has he got some business to attend to. In Figaro, you always had to watch your back. Friends were a rarity here and most people just tried every day to stay alive while working hard. Spending nights lonely as a ghost became common when I set up shop here.
But I did have my company. I had a few friends, three of them bein' my two Colt .45s and my Winchester, and I always keep 'em loaded. I also had my Jim Bean and Luckies, and they always kept me loaded. I reach for another cig and take a nice long puff, just in time to hear some lighthearted sass from my only human friend.
“Those things'll kill ya one day, tiger.” The classy dame walked in, wearing a simple light-brown jacket, plain white button shirt, and brown pants with a hat in her hands, her .38 revolver always at her side, and that wild green hair of hers still waving around like an emerald fire, tied delicately by a red silken bow. She was beautiful…from her head to her toes…just beautiful.
“Terra Branford…I shoulda known it was you.” I reply with an uplifting grin. I put out the cigarette much to her pleasure. “Still the free-spirited girl like old times I see.”
“You know I'll never change honey. Besides, I like those old times.” She says to me with a suggestive wink. “How are things Locke?”
“Slow as always…the money seems to disappear in a flash and every day it gets more and more painful living here and with that annoying landlord Strago.”
“Well I'm glad to see you're happy honey,” she responds sarcastically, “but I think I've got something that'll catch your attention. Think of it as a favor for a friend and a big case for yourself.”
“I'm all ears Terra.”
“Well tiger…as you know…Gestahl's Gang has been running towns all around Figaro ragged. They've already struck Tzen and Maranda. Now both towns have to pay lumps of money just for security from the same people they're paying. Word is Gestahl created a group of men called Kefka's Killers, with his right-hand goon Kefka callin' the shots. They're a rowdy bunch of ruthless killers who'd stop at nothing to loot and kill. Governor Edgar and Commissioner Cyan Garamonde have tried their hardest to stop them, but more of them keep on coming. My own town of Mobliz has been attacked by these goons, and I've had to rely mostly on mercenary security, including you a few years ago. I have two men helping me now. My newest hire is some creepy man in all black…goes by the nickname of 'Shadow.'
“I've heard about this…'Shadow'…a dangerous man with a dead aim who pulls a Houdini act whenever the cops show up after he's done his work.”
“That's right…anyway about two days ago me, Shadow, and a couple of my pals found ourselves under attack from Kefka's Killers…we managed to hold them off with no civilians hurt…but I later found out that Kefka played me like a violin, sneaking into town and kidnapping one of the kids. It was the Mayor Duane and Katarin Robillard's baby Hope. They also took a priceless artifact from the Mobliz treasure vault called the Maltese Maduin. It's a dark-greenish colored statuette about a foot depicting the Esper Maduin.”
“Oh yeah…I heard of that…says it's possible of bringing magic power to the possessor.” I said in a rather skeptical way.” Terra didn't seem to mind though, although she supposedly had ties with magic and Espers. Rather strange…I never knew Duane's last name until Terra told me. I guess I never really bothered to ask them.
“I knew if I contacted the cops that they'd only make matters worse. I also knew you were the man for the job because of your skills of being quick and silent, and not to mention as a 'thief.' She playfully snickers.
“THAT'S TREASURE HUNTER!” I retorted knowing Terra was only yankin' my chain.
“I know hon…I'm just kiddin.' Unfortunately I don't know where they're keeping the baby…but they left this note for me. Here ya go.”
The note read in classic gangster cut-up lettering:
DEAR TERRA BRANFORD, WE HAVE THE MAYOR'S BABY AND YOUR PRECIOUS LITTLE STATUETTE. GIVE US WHAT WE WANT AND WE'LL RETURN BOTH. OUR DEMAND IS 5 MILLION BUCKS AND NO MORE COPS OR MERCS IN MOBLIZ! DO THIS OR THE KID GETS IT, AND DON'T TRY ANYTHING FUNNY!
“That son of a bitch! He'll always be a coward!” I yelled, surprising Terra, but she understood, knowing I have a bit of a soft side for kids. After collecting my thoughts, I agreed to do it. “You've got yourself a detective sweetie.”
“Thank you so much Locke! I knew I could rely on you for help! I knew I couldn't come up with that $5 million anyway…not like I'd ever give into that filthy scumbag Kefka.”
As I stood up to walk her out the door she reaches over and plants a nice kiss on me. I couldn't help but embrace it with a smile. Look at me…serious Detective Locke gettin' all gushy over a kiss.
“Bye tiger…and good luck! I'm always here if you need help.” She said as she put her hat on and closed the door.
A feeling of relief came over me. Finally I had a big case on my shoulders…and not just from some old lady who was mugged or a kid with a missing dolly, but from Terra. Doin' this case could mean some serious dough. Kefka and Gestahl has a stash of treasure hidden in their hideouts, so when I get there I could “help myself” to some of their goodies, being an expert treasure hunter and all.
As I tried to form some plan to find out info on Gestahl, the baby, and the statue, I laid down on my bed remembering the old times and how I first met Terra. After Gestahl's Gang ravaged through the cities and towns before being stopped by the Army, they laid waste to that small town Terra lives in now, Mobliz. Poor Mobliz. The town had literally no adults left when the gang was through with it, and only two teenage kids were left to run it, the mayor of Mobliz Duane, and his wife Katarin. Terra was a mysterious girl whose past I don't know much about, not taking the fact that she was an amazing girl. Wow…it's only been three years and she's already grown into a fine lady. She cared for Duane, Katarin, the other Mobliz citizens, and especially those kids. I remember them calling her “Mama” when I got to know her. She sure was great with the tykes.
Bored of my treasure hunting and tattered by Rachel's death, I happened to notice a sign on a street corner asking for mercenary help in securing some small town called Mobliz, also giving the number of the contact, that being Terra. The pay was ok but beggars can't be choosers. I remember driving into Mobliz a few days after I called only to be in the middle of a firefight. My car was riddled with lead, so I bailed out, suddenly hearing some girl screaming at me for help so I ran towards her. That's when I first met Terra, a sassy and brave dame with that emerald hair that'll make any man get the jitters. Being the crack shot I was in firefights, I was able to help Terra fight off Gestahl's men. That was also the first time I got shot, right in the shoulder, and she helped me through it. My God it hurt, but I remember her cleaning it and treating it for me. She had her own wounds from several battles with the crooks and gangsters. That's when I fell in love with her. Terra Branford, the law around the tiny town of Mobliz, asked for my assistance in helping her keep it safe. I couldn't say no to the sweet, convincing dame…and for almost three years I helped keep the law in that town with Terra.
From what I heard…Terra was an only child in Vector. Her only parent was her mother Madonna, whom she loved very much. Her father's identity was never known to her, but people say that her father was part of a resistance movement against Gestahl. No one really knew what happened to him. Terra had a happy life until the age of six, when some of Gestahl's men decided to go on a looting spree, choosing Terra's little home as one of the houses to loot. They broke in and took everything; including her mother while Terra hided. She was now an orphan…fending off everything Vector threw at her. She lived on the streets with other orphans, learning how to survive on a day to day basis. When she was old enough, around seventeen, she decided she wanted to leave Vector. She stole a car one day and sped off into the countryside, never going back. She burned with hate towards Gestahl and his gang and wanted to do everything to stop him. She happened to drive into a little town called Mobliz and immediately took pity on the situation. The poor town was always under attack by Gestahl and his men, and many of the residents there were only orphan children, their parents killed trying to fight off the attacks. Being an orphan herself, Terra decided to stay there and act as the “Marshall” of Mobliz.
My God was she a feisty lady, and a helluva shot to boot, especially with a Thompson (Tommy gun). Those years were great, and Terra and I became best friends. Things also started to get physically and emotionally intimate between me and Terra though, as I then shared the same house with her, as a protector and lover, and the kids in Mobliz always thought we were gonna get hitched. I dunno what possessed me to leave, but I had to tell her I had to be movin' on. She understood…knowing things were getting too serious for the both of us. She knew the pain I had from Rachel was overwhelming and knew I didn't want her hurt too, though she knew I loved her and she loved me. But as I lay on my bed, I couldn't help but think what things woulda been like if we did marry. Kids, a home, constant support of each other, and love, all the things I guess scared me, especially that “L” word. I thank her everyday I see her for being so forgiving of my cowardice. Taking the last drag from my cigarette, I put it on the ashtray and went to sleep.
“Tomorrow is gonna be a big day for you Locke old boy.” I couldn't help but say to myself as I turned off the light and rested.
The next day:
It was around 1:00 PM. The hustle and bustle of Figaro was alive and kickin' in the streets. Cars honked, people yelled, the trains roared. Yep, it was a usual day in Figaro. Staring outside the window, I could only think of where I could get my first lead. I figured I'd go down to the usual watering hole as see if I can't get some info. Grabbing my coat and my Colts, I downed about 3 fingers of Jim Bean, just to get me goin', and set out to the bar.
The sign read in nice golden lettering: Setzer Gabianni's Spritzers and Spirits. Setzer Gabbiani was a playboy and all around carouser/gambler. About 28 years old, the schmuck got lucky one night when he was pissing away his money in a casino, but as always, luck has a funny way of rewarding the persistent. He made it big with two million bucks, and decided to open his own bar/club/casino in Figaro. Word is he also married some opera broad named Maria. It was a popular joint, full of life and lowlifes, the usual combination for a Figaro club. I swing inside, with no one neither really noticing nor caring. I head to the counter to see the bartender.
“Gimme a bourbon Manhattan…on the rocks please.” I say to the bartender, a tall lanky lookin' kid with long, combed-back hair.
“Sure thing feller...anything else with that?” the tall kid asks me.
“You sound like you're from outta town mister…”
“Gau's the name sir, and yes I'm from outta town…I'm from the Veldt, it's a boondock place way down south of Figaro. Not much goes on there, so I moved here to Figaro and got this here job as a bartender.”
“Well, nice to meet ya Gau. Say…you haven't heard anything about Gestahl or Kefka have ya kid?”
“Well sir, I did hear about some bad men roughin' up this poor little town called Mobliz. I heard the mayor's baby was taken, along with some artsy thing of some kind.”
“Yeah…that's the Maltese Maduin. My friend Terra needs it back along with the tyke.”
“I'm sorry feller, I can't help ya there, but my girlfriend Relm might be able to. She's a sweet girl she is, and a very good artist too. She's good with all that art stuff. She works at the Figaro Art Museum near the City Hall until 6:00 PM. Go see her, and tell her I said hi and I love her.”
“Ummmm…ok Gau. I'll do that.” I replied with a strange tone.
“Thanks feller…and drop by again sometime tonight…I bet you'll get some clues there. Some interesting folks drop by this place at night.”
“Thanks Gau…take care.” I said as I waved goodbye after paying my tab and walking out the door. Next stop is the art museum. I smiled confidently that I got my first tip that easily. I could only hope that every lead I get is this easy.
I arrived at the museum around 3:30 PM. It was quite a nice place, well-lit and so quiet you could hear a pin drop. I guess it's a nice place to bring a sweetheart or to bring kids to teach them something. However, I never really understood art that much. The only thing a treasure hunter like me saw in art was how much dough it could give ya. Makes me wonder what the ladies see in this. A rather svelte broad walked up to me as I was lookin' at some of the paintings.
“Can I help you sir?” She asked rather politely.
“Yes ma'am…I'm looking for a Relm Arrowny…I believe she works here.”
“Oh yes! I know just who you're looking for. She's over in the modern art section…just observing the works. You know…she's quite the artist, and some of the pictures here are here own!”
“You don't say?” I reply, with slight apathy in my voice.
“Oh yes indeed! Just walk down the hall and to your left and she's right there.”
“Excuse me…are you Relm Arrowny?”
“Why yes I am. What's it to ya buddy?” She snapped back unexpectedly.
“You've got some lip on you little girl. I'm Locke Cole, a private detective and I need to ask you a few questions about a case I'm working on. Your lover boy Gau told me you could help me. Oh by the way Relm,” and this made me feel like an idiot by the way, “Gau says he loves you.”
“Awww…that's so sweet of that boy. He's too nice to me…maybe it's that simple Veldt background of his. Anyway…now knowing that you've met my sweetie Gau, what can I do for ya?”
“I'm looking for a stolen statuette which was taken from my friend along with the mayor's baby in Mobliz. It's called the Maltese Maduin. Do ya have any info on it?”
“Do I? You bet!” She says loudly as she leads me into a private section of the museum. We sit down at a table as she pulls out some records. “I've heard about this statuette in all the art papers and these records I read. The Maltese Maduin is a Jidoorian sculpture created over a century ago depicting the Esper Maduin.”
“Esper?” I ask.
“Yeah…Esper…it's a magical being that supposedly existed a long time ago. This statuette was carved from supposedly magic stone, and is said to have some mystical power to it. How your friend got it I'll never know. Anyway…the legend of the Maltese Maduin is that it has a secret written on the back of it…supposedly leading to a bonanza of treasure and riches. Legend also has it that the possessor of the statuette can be given some sorta magical power.”
“Sounds a little like it came out of a fantasy novel.” I reply with some lingering curiosity as to how and why Terra has it.
“You want some tea Mr. Cole?” She asks.
“Well…thought no one has apparently had any accounts of magic coming from it, there are still some pretty die-hard believers in the power it supposedly wields.”
“Perhaps that's why Kefka and Gestahl want it so badly…they're nutty enough to believe in all that hocus-pocus.”
“You mean it was Kefka's Killers that took it?” She asks with alarm. “Wow buddy, you're in for quite a battle if you wanna take the Maltese Maduin back. I've heard they're a mean bunch of cutthroats who do all of Gestahl's dirty work, especially roughing up towns neighboring Figaro. I know Mayor Edgar is tryin' to stop 'em, but it's hard for the cops to get a bead on them. All I can say is good luck buddy…you'll need it! Oh and by the way…if you ever run into this old coot named Strago, tell him his grand-daughter said hello.”
Well I'll be damned. Didn't think that old man had any family left.
“Thanks again for the help.” I replied nervously, with a little sweat dripping down from my brow as I walked out the museum doors. I got to the bottom of the steps, thinking I may have bitten off more than I can chew with this case. It was getting late, and the sun ceased to exist as the street lights took its place. I couldn't help but feel I was bein' followed, but that's just Figaro paranoia. I went back to my office, jotting a few notes down from the info that the girl Relm gave me. I still pondered why Terra seemed so concerned over some statuette…it's strange. Terra's a pretty down-to-earth lady. Oh well, I had all the time in the world to ask her these sorts of questions. It was getting late, around 9:30 PM. I remembered what that Veldt bartender Gau said about coming by later. Maybe I should…it'll get me some more clues.
I walked to Setzer's joint again. Seems like a big show was gonna start, since there were some recently acquired spotlights. A big bright sign read: “Tonight only! Gogo and the Jazz Quartet, with Special Mystery Singer!” Hmmm…seems like my lucky night, because this gig is gonna attract a lot of attention, where I can get a lot of info. I saw a stretch limo drive up to the place and the doors opened. Ha, seems this place even attracted the honorable governor Edgar Figaro to its doors. I always knew he was a ladies man too, seeing as he was swarmed by about six lovely vixens as he walked to the doors. I had to figure out how to get inside. It looked as if the security was real tight, with bouncers everywhere. I was then able to see Gau taking a five minute outside. I thought maybe he could help me.
“Gau! Good to see ya again!” I yelled trying to get his attention.
“Huh?” He asked confusedly. “Hey you're that detective fella Locke right?”
“Great! I'm glad ya came back here. Did ya see Relm? Did she look great and did you give her my message?” God Almighty the kid was full of questions.
“Yes…yes I did. I also gave her the message. She says she loves you too,” feeling stupid once again. “She was able to help me on that statuette, but now I need yours.”
“Really? What for Detective Locke?” He asked.
“Well ya see…I need to get in here, but I bet those bouncers won't let me. You think you can help me get in Gau?”
“Well sure I can pal! No problem.” A sigh of relief came over me.
“Who is this man Gau?” The bouncer asks.
“Oh he's my good friend, he's also a cop.” He fibs to the bouncer while winking at me. “I just thought I could let him in seeing how he'd like to see this performance, that and act as a little extra security.”
“Ok…you can come in buddy. Good thing ya know Gau here, otherwise you'd be stuck in that huge line over there.” The goon says to me as he points to a line about as long as a road block.
“Thanks.” I replied with a little lip to it.
“Thanks Gau…I owe ya one someday.”
“Think nothin' of it pal.”
I walked into the joint, the aroma of cigarette smoke, liquor, and perfume nearly suffocated me. It was like a full set orchestra of lights, buzzers, rings, and gossips enough to make an elephant scream in agony. I could tolerate it though…to a degree. I sat down at the bar and got my usual, a Knob Creek Manhattan and a White Russian to boot. Nothin' in this world, except for women and money, is better than a good drink. I figured I'd get to work.
“Anyone of real interest come in Gau?”
“Nothin' I've seen so far, just a couple of henchmen for Gestahl, but I don't wanna cause any trouble with their type.” He replied while cleaning some glasses with a rag. “Wait a second sir…see that man over there…sitting with some thugs at the far corner of the right wall?”
“That man looks familiar from the papers. Oh yeah…that's Leo, one of Gestahl's most trusted men. He always comes here once a week to watch the bands play. Word on the street is that he's gettin' soft, might turn himself in. Poor guy…he must be getting sick of all this crime stuff.”
“Hmmm…maybe I'll have a talk with him. If he's gettin' sick of Gestahl's garbage…then he might have some good info for me…thanks.”
I get up after paying the tab with a little tip for Gau consisting of what I could scrounge up in my pockets and attempt to walk over…get a little eavesdrop on one of his conversations. Before I could get over…I was pushed right back my seat in by a flood of people with such a force I coulda gone flyin' over the bar table. I managed to get my bearings and watch from my seat. The show was about to begin, with the owner of the club Setzer walking to the microphone, lifting his arms to the sky and having money and cards pour out. What a showboat he is I thought to myself.
“Welcome gentlemen…and ladies,” he said with a wink to the dames in the audience. What a lecher. “I'd like to welcome you to my little joint, and now for all you cool cats out there…I've got someone you're gonna really enjoy. It is my pleasure, as Setzer Gabianni, to introduce…Gogo and the Amazing Jazz Quartet!”
The curtains give way as a roar of applause fills the club. I've heard about this Gogo act. It seems he's got a knack for doing a lot of cover pieces of jazz, and rather well I might add. Without a second to spare, Gogo, shrouded in robes to hide his face…immediately tunes his sax and begins with a nice Louis Armstrong hit…the “Potato Head Blues.” It was a sequential wave of jazz hit songs, from Billie Holiday's to Count Basie's…and it was quite the show…kinda made ya forget about the case and get into the swing. When the last piece ended, Setzer jumped up again to get to the microphone.
“Wow ladies and gents…what a show! And now, I have a very special guest who'd like to sing some tunes for you people. Ladies and gentleman, it is a great honor, to introduce one of the most talented…and lovely,” Setzer is interrupted by a chorus of whistles from the guys, “divas on the planet…Miss Celes Chere! Come on up Celes!”
“Celes?” I asked myself dumbfounded, right as the crowd roars.
From the right side of the stage a rather svelte woman in a long red robe comes to the microphone. She takes the robe off, showing off an all white ensemble of glitter and cloth. Her hair was long and gorgeous, with the color of bleached blonde. Her beauty got me in a funk…and I could barely talk. She begins with the melody of Ella Fitzgerald's “It Don't Mean a Thing if it Ain't Got That Swing.” With Gogo's band playing in the background. My God her voice was beautiful, like the friggin' angels of heaven came down and possessed this dame with one helluva singing talent. Her skin was silky smooth and pale like winter snow, with legs and gams of the goddesses. This was one surreal woman singing up there. Every high note, every jazzy chord, every sexy tone she exhibited put me in a trance. I finally mustered enough courage to talk to Gau again…who could already see that I was awestruck.
“Who…who…who in the hell is that woman up there Gau?” I ask trembling like a shaky stool pigeon.
“Oh that's Celes Chere. She's a famous singer with sass, brains, and beauty all in one package! She's one of the prettiest ladies I've ever seen. I heard though that she had a pretty rough past though…she was lucky to get a gig singing, and now she's hit the big time.”
“Wow.” That's all I could say…still hit by some charm she had on me.
Song after song, the crowd gave her an ovation enough to make the walls shake. It gets late…around 12:00 midnight.
“Thank you all very much Figaro! And now, I'd like to end this show with a little number that's my 'personal' favorite.” She tells the audience with a suggestive wink. She then breaks out with Nat King Cole's “L-O-V-E.”
She walks around the stage…still singing in that same angelic style. She then walks down the stage and to the table…tempting the men with her looks. I turn around to take my last sip of my Manhattan, only to turn around again and have her walking towards me, staring me down with her baby blues.
“L…is for the way you look…at me…”
“Good God Locke…what do I do…what do I do?” I think to myself. I can only sit shaking and thinking she must've noticed me at the bar alone. She walks up still singing…getting closer and closer to me. She then brings her head right in front of mine, still singing but softer now.
“O…is for the only one…I see. V…is very very, extraordinary…”
She continues to seduce me with her soft voice. She then takes her hand and glides it across my rough face, still singing with that pearly white smile. It felt like I died and went to heaven. My eyes were fixed on her beauty, my mouth open slightly, as if I wanted to say something, but nothing came out. Still stroking my face… “E…is even more than anyone that you adore in love…is all that I can give to you…” Celes then took it away with a gentle tap on my nose…her baby blue eyes still boring into mine.
She then turns away slowly, walking back to the stage. Like that, she finishes up her number with Gogo's band in the background, trumpets blaring.
“Thank you! I love you all! Good night!” She yells to the cheering audience as men all over scream their love for her. She then walks to the back stage and disappears.
“WOW! Ladies and gentlemen…THE CELES CHERE!” Setzer jumps back on the stage, only to receive a shockwave of applause for both him and Celes. I couldn't help but clap.
“I've been touched by an angel…” I thought to myself in a trance.
“You're one lucky man feller.” Gau says snapping me back into the real world. “I don't think she's ever done that to anyone…she must really like you.”
“Yeah I guess so.”
It gets later around 1:30AM, but last call won't be around three in the morning. Gau gives me a Manhattan sliding out of nowhere to my hand.
“Where'd this come from?” I ask with surprise staring at Gau who was at the right side of the bar cleaning glasses with his rags.
“It came from the little lady who's right next to you.”
“What?” I ask with curiosity only to look over to the other side and see that lovely dame on stage right next to me. I jump back a bit with surprise. “Um umm hh...hh...hi.” I greeted her with utmost nervousness.
“No need to be alarmed honey…I won't bite.” The dame assures me with a wink, her blonde hair flowing with every move.
“You're…you're Celes Chere!” I said still in my previous trance.
“Yep, it's me…Celes Chere in the flesh. Hope ya don't mind me gettin' that drink for ya.”
“No problem at all. You put on quite a show.”
“Thanks…I couldn't help but notice that you were all by yourself honey…though I might keep ya company. What're you doin' here so late anyway mister…?”
“Cole. Locke Cole. I'm a private eye.” I blurted out not even thinking…this woman's beauty's gonna get me in trouble.
“Ooooh…a gumshoe eh? Working on a case no doubt?” She asks me.
“Well…now that it's out…I have to help the people of Mobliz find the mayor's tyke and get some statuette back.”
“Oh yeah…I read about it in the paper. Good luck with that honey. Mmmmm…such a rugged man taking on Kefka and Gestahl's baddies…quite a challenge.” She said rather suggestively, her left hand resting on her delicate chin, the other hand swirling her glass of white wine. I didn't know if she was hinting towards something or I'm just delusional.
“Well thanks Celes.” I'm not even sure why I said that. “What brings you to Figaro?”
“Oh nothin' much…just this gig playing tonight. I always like being in Figaro with all the bright lights.”
“Yeah…it is a great city sometimes.” I reply only to notice the front door nearly bursting with photographers and journalists dyin' for an interview. She saw them too.
“Hey gumshoe…I wanna get outta here but the press is gonna swarm me…and I can't stand for that right now. Is there anyway you can help me out?”
“Gau?” I ask getting his attention.
“Well sir, there's a back entrance to this place…I sometimes go out there to talk to Relm when she's on her break as well. Come on, I'll show you.”
The back exit/entrance was poorly lit, but it did the trick. Celes and I were outside and able to get on the opposite street with no one really noticing.
“Aren't the bouncers gonna be concerned?” I ask.
“Nah, I told them to just go home with or without me. They won't be concerned. I'm a big girl…I can take care of myself.”
“I'm sure you can.”
“Hey thanks for helping me get out of there, you're a big help there gumshoe.”
“Where are you originally from Locke?” She asks as we walk down the street.
“Well I was born in Kohlingen and lived there until I was about 22. I was a 'treasure hunter' and valuables merchant, made a lot of dough doing that. Then I just got bored with it and moved to Mobliz to help them out with security. I stayed there for three years and left for reasons I'm gonna go into and wound up here. I had a knack for helping people, but didn't wanna be a cop, so I became a detective.”
“Good story…you've had quite a life already.” She compliments.
“Where are you from Celes?”
“I was born in Vector. It's a huge city…makes Figaro look like a backwater town.”
“You don't say? How old are you too?”
“I'm about 20 but I'm going to be 21 this March, only 2 months left.”
“That's good. Brrrr…it sure is cold outside. Do you want my jacket?”
“No thanks hon…I love the winter. I love the snow, especially when it falls in the city.”
“It is pretty huh Snowflake?” I accidentally spray out of my mouth, not realizing that I just called the Celes Chere “Snowflake.” “Oh jeez did I just say that?”
“Ha ha…no offense taken honey. You can call me that if ya want.”
“Hey thanks a bunch for helping me out and walking with me big guy.”
“No sweat Snowflake. My apartment is around here anyway. You have a place to stay don't ya?”
“Well…I can think of a place I could stay.” She replies rather seductively as we stand outside my apartment lobby doors.
“I…I…I…” I try to say something but cannot. That's when I see her come right to me and plants a kiss right on my lips. “Oh my good Lord!” I think to myself.
Retract that statement I said before about being in heaven…that incident before was a tease compared to this. Our lips meet again…and again…and again as we walk to the doors.
Jesus Christ! Governor Edgar can have all the ladies he wants…but he's got nothin' on me! I just slept with the most beautiful girl this land has to offer…the Celes Chere. It was the most incredible experience I've had in years. Every inch of her body was perfection, every word she spoke like an angelic choir, and every touch like she was covered in silk. I could only lie down and take out on of my Luckies and light it while taking a deep breath. The sensations made me remember…remember…Terra…the beautiful emerald-haired woman of Mobliz, and when I first embraced her love…happiness and warmth turned to pain for some time as I continued to take drags from my cigarette, thinking about how much pain love has caused me, and how much I'm afraid of it.
Part 2: Bedside Confessions
She was still asleep…but it was only a matter of time until she woke up from her light nap, probably because of the noise I was making. Let's just say my skill in being quiet is dropping.
“How are ya feelin' Snowflake?” I asked.
“Because of you tiger…like a million bucks! That was incredible.” She said with the most appeased tone. She called me “tiger” though. The only person to call me that was…Terra, but I wouldn't let her know.
“MMMmmm,” she groaned with a certain satisfaction or comfort, “Hey…who's this?” She happened to notice my picture of Rachel. Thank God she didn't see my pictures of Terra and I, but those fortunately were in my desk.
“She…she was a girl I loved years ago,” I replied with a certain pain in my heart. “Her name was Rachel…she was your typical 'girl-next-door' in Kohlingen. She was quite the girl she was. Always smiling…never knew why she liked a stubborn lunk-head 'treasure hunter' like me though. Maybe she was just a dame lookin' for adventure…and I provided it. I don't know, but we loved each other. Anyway…we were gonna get married, even though we were only twenty…and then one June day I heard some bad news from my friends…”
“I'll be back soon Locke…I'm just getting some flowers!” Rachel yells.
“Okay honey…make sure you come back soon. I'll be missing you!”
“Can do. I love you Locke.”
“I love you too Rachel.”
(Two hours later)
“LOCKE! LOCKE! Come quick! Rachel's hurt really bad!!!” A friend of Locke yells.
“WHAT!?! WHAT HAPPENED TO RACHEL?”
“She was driving downtown, and then a couple of cars out of nowhere smashed right into her. Her car got flipped a couple times. She's bleedin' really badly!”
“Oh dear God no! Please God…make Rachel ok, PLEASE!!”
“There she is Locke…talk to her…maybe that'll help.”
“Locke? Locke…is that you?”
“Yes Rachel…I'm here honey. You're gonna be ok…you hear? You're going to be ok.” Rachel was really banged up. There was blood everywhere.
“I'm sorry Locke…I'm sorry. This doesn't look good love. This might be it...<cough>”
“No…don't say that. A doctor's coming…he's gonna fix you up…and you'll be ok.”
“I love you Locke…always remember that.”
“I love you too Rachel,” as tears stream down Locke's face. “Don't die on me Rachel…don't die. Please don't die on me.”
“We had…<wheeze>…we had some good times. I'll always remember that. You made me a happy girl Locke Cole. I'm sorry we couldn't marry and have a family just like you said…forgive me Locke. I love you…”
“I love you too Rachel…please stay with me Rachel...please…”
“Locke…I love you…I'm sorry…” Rachel takes a few last breaths…Locke bends down to give her one last kiss…and she closes her eyes and ceases to breathe.
“No…No...NOOOO!” Locke screams at the top of his lungs while holding Rachel.
End of flashback
“That's the story Snowflake. After Rachel's death…my life was over, with all of my plans ruined. I spent the last three years wandering around…trying to find something to ease the pain…to find a new meaning in life…maybe this private eye gig was the wrong turn…I dunno. I'm sorry if I upset you.”
“I'm sorry Locke…I had no idea…” She apologized with a remarkably long silence following it. Wow…I really must've shocked this lady I thought to myself.
“Well…if it'll make ya feel any better…I had a pretty rough life too in Vector. I was practically an orphan…I never knew my mom or dad. I was raised by my grandpa Cid. I loved him very much, and he took good care of me. One night though…he disappeared…and I was alone. The Vector cops turned up nothing…and I thought he died. I was shattered. I was then truly an orphan. I tried my best to make it…always relying on myself to survive. I thought I could make some money by singing. Grandpa Cid always told me I had a lovely voice. People liked my voice…but still I got no recognition. That's when I ran into Gestahl.”
“Excuse me Celes…did you say Gestahl?” I ask with the most astounded look on my face.
“You betcha…apparently one day I was singing for a crowd in the courtyard…he must've heard my voice. He went up to me and asked for my name. I gave it to him and he asked if I had a family. I told him I didn't…so he asked me if he could take care of me. For the past five years…Gestahl took care of my like I was his daughter. I was given a second chance. I got nice clothes…a nice house…a car…a career…everything. I was never in danger…his men made sure of that. He promoted me everywhere he went…helping me get booked at major jazz events. He helped me make it big…and I was eternally grateful…until I heard the truth. You remember how I said that my grandpa 'disappeared?'”
“Well…about a year and a half ago…I was at one of his houses. I was bored beyond belief…so I felt like snooping around a little…not thinking he'd care too much. That was when I saw a letter strewn on a little coffee table. I read it…and it said that around ten years ago from that time…there was some weapons project that Gestahl was working on. It mentioned someone heading the project. That man was my grandpa Cid. It read how he didn't want to help them…so they kidnapped him, never knowing that I was his granddaughter. The letter got me enraged…and I stormed out holding back the tears in my eyes. Gestahl, under my nose, took the one person that made me happy. I decided to run away…far away from Vector. I got all the stuff and money I needed, and I snuck out at night and took a cab far away. I've still been able to sing and make money, even though Gestahl is probably going after me, but luckily my celebrity status and my bodyguards have kept me safe. I should tell you Locke…this life I have isn't the greatest…always running while having to put on a show just to get by.”
“I completely understand Celes. I know what it's like to have hard times…to live in misery with no one to keep you company.”
She paused for a second. “Thank you Locke…thank you for understanding and listening to me. Few people have cared that much about me.” She says as she gives me a kiss.
“You're a special lady Snowflake…remember that.”
“Thank you again Locke…good night.”
“Good night Celes.”
I woke up around 9 AM. Outside life went on, despite the ten inches of snow on the ground. Celes was still asleep, still looking angelic as she did when I first saw her. I decided to get up and make some coffee. There ain't nothin' like a little coffee and a shot of whiskey to get ya goin' in the morning. I took some Jim Bean and put a little in my mix…it perked me right up. I notice Celes getting up, yawning.
“Good morning Snowflake.”
“Mmmmm good morning gumshoe. What time is it?”
“It's around 9:30 AM. You want a cup of coffee?”
“Sure. Thank you.” She replies as I pour some in a cup and hand it to her. “I hate to do this to ya gumshoe…but I have to leave…my bodyguards and agents are probably worried sick.”
“No problem Snowflake. You do what you gotta do.”
“Thanks again honey. I like you gumshoe…hopefully I'll see you around sometime.” She reaches for her clothes and her purse. The purse spills its contents, revealing a Luger, a fancy German pistol, and a .38 revolver. This dame could be armed to the teeth I thought to myself. She looks at me and with a small chuckle, responds, “Hey, a girl's gotta have her own 'personal' protection. Take care and good luck gumshoe.”
If that didn't remind me of Terra I don't know what did. It blew my mind where got a fine weapon like that Luger though. It's mostly a collector's pistol, back from when the Army smashed Gestahl's out of control renegade army a decade ago.
The doors slams shut in front of me, blowing a small piece of paper to my feet. I don't remember a paper being on the floor before. I pick it up and on the front it says my name. I open it to reveal another letter-cut message reading:
I HAVE SOME INFO YOU MAY WANT. MEET ME AT THE SOUTH FIGARO DOCKS, PIER 13…MIDNIGHT…ALONE.
No name was written on the bottom…I smelled something fishy about this, but a lead was a lead. I had almost forgotten completely about the case with this commotion of Celes and Terra in my head. I had to get back on track. I quickly washed myself, grabbed my coat, my Colts, and decided to visit South Figaro.
(Meanwhile, as a side story)
Celes, after walking out of Locke's apartment, set her sights on the Golden Chocobo Hotel, where her crew was staying. Walking down the street alone, despite all of the commotion and people all around, she is yanked into an alley by a mysterious stranger.
“What the hell? Oh…it's only you. Christ…don't do that! You nearly scared me to death!” Celes yells angrily.
“I don't care right now. Did you find anything out about this Locke Cole?”
“No…I didn't get anything. What's it to ya anyway?”
“Well you see my pretty Celes…this Locke Cole represents a threat to everyone…and if I'm to have a quick and easy takeover of the business…I can't have anybody muddling it up, especially not some two-bit detective looking for a brat and the statuette all for that Mobliz shantytown!”
“Well…if you must know…all I found out was that he's gathering information. He doesn't know where you are right now, but I think he's been getting some help from other sources.”
“I think I know exactly who you're talking about hee hee hee.” The stranger replies with a rather ominous chuckle. “Get outta here Celes…I'll get you when I need you again.” He then shoves Celes back on the street.
“He's such a jerk…and to think I'm helping him.” A feeling of guilt seeps into Celes as she takes a deep breath and continues on. She thinks to herself, reflecting on Locke, “That Locke was quite a man…like no one I've ever met before. I just hope he'll be ok. I do like him, I like him a lot. I've never loved anyone though…not like I should. He's witty, handsome, and feels the same pain I do…could he be the one I've been looking for…?” She then looks up to the sky, and walks back to the hotel, troubled by her personal thoughts.
(Back to the main story)
It was misty…the fog was so thick you could cut it with a knife. I could barely walk let alone see. I always had to watch my step or I'd have a really wet experience. I don't know why I had to meet this person at night…makes it even harder to see. Oh well…took me long enough to get to South Figaro, what with all the traffic and such. I took out one of my cigarettes and lit it.
“You're too noisy Locke Cole…if you were a mobster I'd have killed you by now.”
“What the hell? Who's that?” I ask looking around only to turn around and find a menacing black figure right in front of me. His knife meets the skin of my throat as my Colt .45 touched his forehead. It was the legendary Shadow. “Well, well, well…if it isn't Shadow…Terra's new aide.” I said confidently as we both holster out weapons. “You didn't think I'd be that fast huh?”
“I'm sure you are Locke Cole, and I'm no aide boy. I'm a mercenary. I'm just in it for the money.”
“You're compassionate too I see!” I replied in a snide remark.
“Cut the sarcastic crap Cole! I brought along someone who's willing to help. He came to me unarmed a few days ago in Mobliz. He says he's sick of Gestahl's murder and terror. Leo… you can come out now.”
A figure suddenly appeared from the fog. It was Leo, Gestahl's other lieutenant in his gang.
“Leo I presume?” I ask with some skepticism.
“Indeed I am. Were you followed?”
“No I wasn't.”
“That's good. No doubt you've heard the scoop that I'm turning soft. Well…I am. I'm sick of all this crime stuff. I'm sick of hurting all these people. Kefka and Gestahl have gone too far. Money and power are good only for a short time. I don't wanna hurt anymore people and…”
“Sorry to cut the semantics short Leo, but I need info and I need it now. Mayor Duane's baby's health depends on it.” I interrupt, knowing the baby was more important than some stupid statuette.
“Right…well from what I know…Gestahl believes in the legend of the Maltese Maduin that the possession of it could lead to ungodly power. If he's able to find that secret, and the legend is true, we're all in serious trouble.”
“So I've heard. You wouldn't happen to know where Gestahl is hiding the baby and the statuette would you?”
“Last time I heard he stashed it away in his private HQ somewhere on the industrial outskirts of Figaro…but because of police troubles he's relocated himself somewhere else. That my friend I don't know.”
“Damn. I figured for a man so close to Gestahl you'd know more.”
“Sorry…but he does a lot more things with Kefka than with me. I'm just a leader of his strongmen, nothing else. I do know where some of his personal informants are though.”
“Really? Would you mind telling me?”
“Well…their names are Vicks and Wedge. They're just two peons in the grand scheme of things, but they've been known to be Gestahl's personal errand/message boys. They usually hang out at the Albrook Club, mostly gawking at the women there. Perhaps you could get some info outta them…it only matters how.”
“Believe me Leo,” I reply, “I have my ways.”
“Make sure that you and your 'ways' solve this case quickly. I fear for the safety of this child and for our own safety if Gestahl gets his hands on this power the Maltese Maduin supposedly has.” Leo warns me.
“Ok…you can count on me. I guess we should now part huh?”
“That'd be a good idea,” Shadow replied, “Come on Leo…we have to go. Goodbye Detective Cole…and good luck.”
Leo along with Shadow disappeared into the fog, and I was all alone. I'd better get to work.
The next day I decided to visit the Albrook Club. Personally I've never been to Albrook, but I've heard the women there are incredible…and the nightlife in this town is quite active. It's probably due to the fact it's close to Vector. Knowing that this place was probably swarming with Gestahl's men…I kept my eyes peeled as I entered the bar. The man to the left of me was the bouncer. My God was he a huge guy. I figured that of all the people…he could help me out.
“Excuse me sir, I'm looking for a Vicks and Wedge. I was told they like to hang out here.”
“What's it to ya buddy?”
“Well…it involves a kidnapped baby and a missing statuette.”
“What if I don't tell you?”
“I could bring the law down on you for obstruction of justice pal.” I reply as I flash my badge. I know myself I'm not part of the Figaro Police Department…but this badge makes everyone else think that. It's great for getting into places where the cops aren't.
“Ok sir…they're right over there...in the far right corner.” The behemoth sighs.
I walk over to the table, both of them being none the wiser. One of them starts heckling a waitress.
“Come over here baby…I won't bite.” He hisses at the poor girl.
“Go away!” She yells.
“What if I don't?” He asks as the goon tries to get a grope or two. The sight already disgusted me to no end.
“I said go away you jerk!” She yells slapping his hand away.
“Why you impetuous bitch!” He yells as he rises out of his chair, grabbing the woman's arm. “Don't you know that I'm Wedge…one of Gestahl's personal under-bosses? I'll teach you to disrespect me!” He brings his arm back, getting ready to backhand her. It wasn't until he was about to hit her that his wrist met my hand, clasping firmly on it.
“Don't you know it's rude to ever hit women?” I said smugly. His partner Vicks rises up only to watch me pull my pistol out of my right side and aim it straight at him.
“Why don't we stop this nonsense and play nice huh fellas?”
“Bite me!” Wedge yells, swinging his other arm, only for me to duck and twist his arm around his back, and slam him to the table, causing quite a ruckus and grabbing the attention of the bouncer.
“Get outta here honey…I'll take care of this.” I calmly say to the woman, who thanks me and walks to the bouncer. “I asked nicely. Now I'm gonna ask the hard way. Where are Gestahl and the baby?”
“Screw you copper! I ain't telling you!”
“Fine then…this'll hurt a little bit.” I pull his arm up even more, causing him to scream in agony.
“Now tell me again…where is Gestahl and the baby?” My gun is still drawn
“Ok I'll tell you. He's in the industrial outskirts of Figaro!”
“Wrong answer slick! I knew he left Figaro a year ago! Again, one last time, where is he?” This time I point the pistol straight to the back of his head, hard enough to break through his skin.
“Ok ok…I'm sorry…he's in Vector…he moved back to Vector, in the old fish markets.”
“Thank you…was that so hard? I pull the gun away and let go of his arm, leaving him on the ground cursing in pain. I've heard enough I thought to myself, so I put on my hat and walk towards the door. That's when I hear Vicks finally brandish a throwing knife.
“Look out!” A random person yells.
I whip around quickly and BLAM! I left a nice lead present right into Vicks. Suddenly a bunch of men get up and charge me...one about to hit me with a chair. I get ready for the incoming rumble.
The chair suddenly smashes into pieces. I look in amazement as the bouncer, as massive as he was, grabbing a broken leg from the chair and smacked one of the men across the face with it. Looks like I had an ally in this fight I thought to myself with a sigh of relief.
“Thank you man.” I say to the behemoth.
“Talk later…we've got a fight on our hands.” He replies.
A man rushes at me only for me to cut him short with a gut jab and then an uppercut, sending him flying over a table. Another one comes from behind and clocks me in the face, sending me back a foot, but responding with a nice kick to the face. I grabbed a bottle and threw it at a nearby fighter, breaking it over his head and knocking him out cold.
Meanwhile the bouncer grabbed one man by the neck and threw him ten feet across the room onto a table, and then backhanding another gangster, sending him flying. Someone then broke a bottle over his head. He could only pause for a second and see blood trickle down his forehead. In a rage he screamed and turned around and swung his fists all over, sending men flying like he was a human tornado. I could only watch in amazement. The bouncer continued to fight despite the blood trickling down on his head.
I grabbed a nearby pool cue and swung it around, whacking one guy in the face and butting another in the stomach. I finished them off with some good hard thwacks. One man jumps at me, only for me to knock him away with a fierce swing, breaking the cue. Their numbers were thinning, but still I was getting tossed around with a good hard jab to the face, but I was able to counter by hitting him across the face with a stool, knocking my assailant unconscious. That was the last of them. The bar was in complete ruin, with men strewn about, out like lights. Everyone had cleared out except for me, the bouncer, the waitress, and the bartender.
“Gimme a drink…now…please bartender!” I demand.
“Ok sure…just I don't want any more trouble.” He pleads as he hands me a shot of bourbon as I wipe away some blood from my chin. It felt like heaven as it slipped down my throat, with that therapeutic burn alcohol leaves.
“Oh man that hit the spot thank you,” I said as I turned my attention to the bouncer, who's also taking a shot of liquor. “Thank you too man for your help.”
“You started that fight…but I must thank you instead. I'm sick of Gestahl's men always harassing this place. Someone needed to flush them out. I'm glad you showed up.”
“What's you name anyway pal?” I ask.
“The name's Sabin, Sabin Figaro.”
“Wait a second…you mean you're related to Gov. Edgar Figaro?” I asked in amazement, noticing he looked somewhat familiar to the governor.
“Yes indeed. I'm his twin brother. He offered me a job in Figaro, but I knew I was never a good politician, so that's why I went here. I'm a big guy anyway…so a bouncer job was perfect for me. Besides, I like protecting people while tossing out jerks at the same time. It kills two birds with one stone.”
“I guess that's always good. Besides, do you think that they were lying to me anyway?”
“Maybe they were. I hardly know half the time. After this incident I'd say wait a few hours…one of them will definitely run to Gestahl, then trail them…use a paint can and pierce the bottom. The paint trail will lead you to the hideout/HQ.”
“Wow. Thanks for the idea Sabin!” I never thought of doing that until now. It's always good to hear other people's advice. “All right, I'd better take off before I attract even more attention. Thank you for helping me.”
“Hey the pleasure's all mine.” He says satisfied with what we've done at the bar.
A few hours pass, and like Sabin said…someone went running to Gestahl. I was able to get green and white cans of paint and tie them to the bumper of the car the gangster was in. I took my knife and pierced both bottoms, and ran away. Like a charm, the paint can formed a nice long trail all the way down the street. It was only a matter of time that I'd find Gestahl and sneak into his HQ, get the baby, get the statuette, and win Terra's heart again, or did I want to win Celes over?
Once again my mind filled itself with self-inflicted wounds of infatuation and love. Love…I hate that word sometimes. It's caused me so much pleasure and pain at the same time. I fell in love with both of them. There was the sassy blonde pale-faced beauty Celes, and the wild-eyed, wild-haired, independent dame Terra. They were both orphans, just like me, and both had bitterness towards Gestahl. Celes was like me though, a poor lost kid just trying to make it and find someone and something to live for in this crazy world. With her I felt like I bonded, even if it was one night. With Terra…I felt like my life had purpose…helping her and the kids…and she loved me for my compassion and courage. She'll never forgive me though…I was a coward. She poured her love out to me and I was afraid to embrace it. She's still my friend, but I hope…if I choose her…that she'll forgive me and it could be like old times. If I choose Celes…I could give a lost girl hope and be her companion. I could protect her like I did with Terra. Why did my mind have to torment me like this? Locke Cole…you have issues.
An hour passed…which was plenty of time to get into my car and begin my rescue operation. After a quick rest to heal myself, I stopped by the store to pick up some supplies. Buying some pistol ammunition, some medical supplies, and other miscellaneous items including, I was off to find Gestahl's HQ once and for all. I loaded them into the car…and I was on my way, fitting on my own little custom silencers for my Colts. I'd figured if I was taking the silent approach…these babies would help. Nothing did the job quite like a Maxim suppressor. The paint trail worked like a charm…leading me right to the HQ. It was in the old industrial section of Vector, right smack dab in a refinery. That goon Wedge was only partially lying.
Part 3: The Great Raid
I had to figure out how exactly I was to get in this place. My mouth watered impatiently at the thoughts of action, rescue, and all the treasure Gestahl's got locked away somewhere. “Calm down Locke. This is for the kid…don't you remember?” I reminded myself. It was starting to get dark…so I'd better scope the joint out first. Grabbing my binoculars, I was able to pick up the sentry posts at the abandoned refinery. They were armed to the teeth though, with a few .30 caliber machine guns and what not. There were also men on patrol, armed with mostly Tommy guns and a few rifles. I was worried more for snipers…but I didn't see any. It's not like Gestahl's men are expecting any armies to attack them. This certainly was a snafu…one man against an entire army of goons, but I was confident. Hell…I know I'm ten times smarter than them. All I needed to find was an entrance. All that separated me from getting in there was a nice long chain fence and some guard towers to boot. God almighty was Gestahl paranoid! However…noticing the path the spotlights made…I happen to see a nice blind spot that the lights didn't touch. Perfect! This was my ticket in. It's great to have eyes like a hawk!
Sneaking over to the corner, I grabbed my wire-cutters I got at the market and went to work, delicately clipping each metal link without attracting any attention. Clip after clip…I worked my way through, forming a nice circle that I easily removed, and tried to put back in. It was successful. So far so good Locke, now you have to find another entrance. The black coat I wore allowed me to have a little more stealth sneaking in. I noticed a basement entrance guarded only by one man. I crept over, making sure no one was watching or walking over. The crony turned his back to me to light a cigarette. I quickly grabbed a rag with some “store-bought” chloroform and gave him his last drag before he went out like a light. I was still impressed with myself that I still made little noise. I reached for the entrance. Damn! It was locked, but nothing expert treasure hunter Locke Cole couldn't pick. It took me about fifteen seconds to do it, and then I was in. This is almost too easy I thought to myself. I mustn't get cocky. The basement was damp, dimly lit, and all I could hear were leaky pipes with water dripping everywhere. As always…I watched my step to make sure I didn't hit a puddle. Suddenly I heard footsteps walking down the stairs. “Oh no!” I thought as I ran for cover. I managed to find some boxes to hide behind. Some goons of Gestahl's were walking downstairs, not noticing me, which is a good thing.
“So did you take care of what Kefka said?” One of them asks the other.
“Yeah…you can kiss that old geezer Cid goodbye. He outlived his usefulness. Too bad he wasn't around to see the look on Kefka's face when Kefka laid eyes on that bomb that Cid made.”
“Wow man…that bomb is scary…it's enough to wipe out half of Figaro. With dat kinda firepower…who's gonna fight back?”
Oh my God…they were constructing a bomb all along. Poor Cid. Celes is gonna be heartbroken if she heard this.
“Hey what about that fancy art thing?”
“Oh you mean that Maltese sculpture? Yeah…Gestahl's all nutty over this thing… it in a safe somewhere in his office.”
“What about that brat?”
“Oh hell…I shut that kid up a while ago…little brat's in the laundry room…took me two hours to make it stop cryin'.”
This was too much…these idiots were practically handing me all of the hard work…it was too good to be true.
“Whatever man…I just can't wait to get the hell out of here and get to work on Figaro. Soon everything in that city will be ours!”
“I can hardly wait.”
“Neither can I.” I rise up guns drawn, knowing it's now or never. With two quick and silent shots…they never had a chance. I quickly went over and dragged them behind the boxes. I figured I'm already inside…so I might as well get a disguise. Let's see now…who's it gonna be? Finding a match on the smaller one, I quickly put on my new garbs…keeping my lucky black coat and grabbing some keys and ammo the thugs had on them. I quickly rose to my feet and started walking to the stairs. Once I got up there, I checked to see if the coast was clear. When no one was around, I decided to start my snooping. Listening to those two idiots actually helped. The only problem is where were these places? I start creeping around, going in and out of rooms, while the sentries walk their patrols. Luckily, some of the clangs and clanks of the old refinery helped cover my tracks.
Suddenly I hear crying, very high-pitched crying. That must by Duane's baby Hope. Listening to the crying getting louder and softer and then louder again, I was able to find my way to the laundry room. There was a man standing guard at the door. I tried talking to him, knowing that no one knew I was here.
“Whaddaya think you're doin' here pal?”
“Vinny told me to relieve you. Why dontcha take five eh?” Vinny was one of the guys I offed back in the basement.
“He did huh? Well…whatever…now I won't have to put up with this brat. She's your problem now.” He steps to the side and walks off. Whew! That was close. When I saw him leave, I quickly opened the door using one of the keys I took from the dead gangster. There was Hope, lying in a makeshift crib.
“Shhhhh…it's ok now sweetie. Uncle Locke's here and is gonna take you home to mommy and daddy and Terra.”
That's when I suddenly felt a shadow over me. Before I could do anything something hard clocked me on the back of the head. Everything went dizzy for a few seconds…then black.
“Oh good…he's finally awake hee hee.” A sinister voice said as I woke up.
“Owwwww...owwww…oh man…what happened?” I ask not knowing where I was. My head felt like an orchestra and symphony combined…and I had a front row seat. I could still feel the throbbing pain in the back of my head, my hands tighter than a sailor's knot behind the chair.
“What happened? You fell into my little trap you did.” I finally got my bearings and was able to recognize that twisted voice, along with recognizing that insane face.
“KEFKA!” I yelled.
“In the flesh…Detective Cole. You're probably wondering how I knew of your little scheme huh? Well, knowing Leo was going soft so I knew he was going to give away information to someone about our 'activities.' But there's no need to worry about Leo anymore…I took care of him…and now he tells his secrets six feet underground ha ha!”
“You're sick Kefka!”
“Thank you. I'll take that as a compliment. Oh good…here comes Gestahl. Hello boss…here's our intruder we captured.”
“Good job Kefka…good job indeed. So…what business do you have trying to take our ransom objects?”
“What's it to you ya old bag?” I remarked only to receive a nice blow across the face.
“Well…I'm glad you asked. The baby is useless except for the money. The statuette on the other hand…is a prize indeed. The Maltese Maduin will give me the power I need to finally take what is mine. This whole land and all of the cities and towns with it will be mine! With this new bomb the old man Cid made and the Maltese Maduin to give it power, nothing will stand in our way! You see…the Maduin statuette is made of a precious material called Magicite, a mineral that when put in a fission reaction, can cause catastrophic damage. It's delightfully destructive! This statuette is the last piece of existing Magicite, and the only person who had it was that bitch Terra who had the last piece, so we kindly took it from her. Once we extract the Magicite from the statuette, we can use it to activate our bomb mwa ha ha!”
“How dare you call her that! You're insane!” I remarked again.
“Oh am I? You'll soon find out that I'm not. By the way, you're probably wondering how I knew of you Detective Cole huh? Well…let's find out…come in darling.” The opens and in walks the person I'd least expect.
“No…it can't be you…Celes???”
“I'm sorry Locke. Forgive me. He threatened to kill me, Cid, and the child. I couldn't let him do that. You have to understand honey…please…” She pleaded with me as a tear ran down her cheek.
“I understand Snowflake…I understand…” I said with the most disappointed and upset tone. I loved her, but I couldn't believe she did this. I was not only angry at her, but at myself for letting love get me in trouble again. “How could you Celes? Do you not know what they've done? They killed Cid! They killed him after he made this 'bomb'!” Celes seemed shocked by my claims.
“Is this true?” She asks Gestahl trying to hold back any tears.
“That's not important right now honey.” Gestahl tried to assure her, brushing her cheek with his hand.
“Yeah…I did away with the codger…and I liked it too. Enough of this mushy garbage I'm hearing! Bring on the carnage…the mayhem!” Kefka interrupts with certain impatience. Celes could only look horrified hearing the terrible truth.
“All in due time Kefka. I can hardly wait when we unleash this power on all those unsuspecting people. It'll be just you and me Kefka, and I'll rule this land with an iron fist!”
“You mean 'I'll rule this land!'” Kefka replied surprisingly.
“What are you talking about Kefka?” Gestahl said with some astonishment. I could only sit and watch as Celes and I witnessed the oncoming shock.
“I'm sick of playing your lapdog games Gestahl. You're an incompetent boss who's way past his prime. You let this man in and now that wench Terra knows about it. Soon all of Figaro and possibly even Doma will be after us! The gang needs some younger blood heading the operations. It's time you retired…permanently.” Kefka signals some of the men in the room, who soon brandish their guns and drag Gestahl out of the room.
“How could you Kefka? I've done so much for you, and this is how you repay me. You sick, demented freak I'll get you for this!” Gestahl screams.
“On the contrary old man…it seems I've already got you!”
“No no noooooo!” Gestahl screams again as he is pulled out of the room. The door slams behind.
“Now…where were we? Oh yes…I was about to take pleasure in beating you senseless Mr. Detective,” The distant sounds of gunshots echoes into the room, startling me and Celes. “However, I can't get my hands bloody, so I'll leave that to Vargas. Have fun Vargas!”
“With pleasure boss,” This lumbering behemoth as big as Sabin mutters as he heads towards me, “I like a good workout.” Kefka walks out of the room, with Celes in tow.
“Forgive me Locke…I'll think of something to make it up.” She whispers to me before she leaves.
“Let's say we get down to business huh Mr. Cole?”
“Kiss my ass!” I reply. Good going Locke…now get ready for the beating of a lifetime.
“Wrong answer pal, and now you'll pay.” He lets loose a hard hook to the left and then to the right. It hurts like hell. He then gives me a stomach punch hard enough to make me vomit. The beating lasts for an eternally long fifteen minutes, leaving me battered with a feeling like every bone in my body broke. Getting tired of treating me like a punching bag, the giant decides to take a cigarette break. Bruised all over…I could hardly breathe without coughing up blood and having my lungs feel like I was being crushed by a car. I tried looking up, but everything started to go black again. That's when I heard a sweet voice call my name.
“Locke? Locke are you alright?” The angel asks.
“Am I dead…am I in heaven?” I asked back not knowing what was going on.
“No Locke…it's me Celes. Wake up honey please! Here…drink this.” She takes out a small vial of a bluish liquid and pours it down my throat. That liquid tasted funny, but it helped me regain some of my consciousness and strength.
“Uhhhnnnn…Celes…why?” I asked her trying to get my bearings straight.
“I'm sorry Locke…I had to…Kefka needed me to get to you and Terra. I couldn't refuse because he threatened to kill Cid. I love him too much. He was my only family, but now I know that Kefka lied to me. Kefka was planning to take over the business, get rid of Gestahl and he promised me that if I helped, Cid and I would be alright. Now I know that he's a conniving lying bastard.” She exclaimed with a few tears running down her face. “I know you must hate me gumshoe.”
“You betrayed my trust…oh man was I a fool to trust you.”
“Please Locke listen to me! I know you're upset…but I have to tell ya something. I love you Locke Cole…I loved you the minute I laid eyes on you at Setzer's club at the bar. I loved ya from the start! When we were together that night…I felt like I bonded with you that night than I have with other people for years, like you were that missing piece to my personal puzzle. I never meant to hurt you, or anyone else. I'm just a lonely woman with nothing to go for in life, except for you. We're like two peas in a pod Locke. I know you hurt inside…just like me. The loneliness kills you every day just like it kills me every day of my life.”
“Celes…if only you knew how much it hurt inside. An empty barren feeling of loneliness consumes you, and all you ever do is hurt people no matter what.”
“Do you not think I've been lonely my whole life? You and me…we're like two peas in a pod Locke. I want to be happy, live a simple life, and stop feeling this cold loneliness that kills me bit by bit. We have to get out of here, live on our own, just the two of us.”
“Celes…” I muttered as she reached over to me and kissed me. “I love you too…Celes Chere.” A feeling of relief came over me, but still paranoid thoughts entered my head.
“Thank you Locke…you've given me something to live for again. Let me get you out of here.” She takes a knife out of my pocket and cuts the ropes. Free at last thank God! “I took the liberty of grabbing your weapons…they were on the table across the hall.”
“Thank you, now let's get outta here. First, we have to find the kid and that statue before Kefka can hurt anyone! We have to get out of here before Vargas sees us!” I attempt to stand up, with Celes holding me as a support. It takes me a few seconds to balance myself.
“Right…I know a way out of this room…there's a secret exit in this room…hold on. Aha…here it is…gimme a hand with this will ya?”
Pulling with all our might, we manage to open the loose metal tile on the floor. Making sure the coast was clear, Celes jumped down and then I did. We had to find our way to the baby and the statuette. I figured for safety reasons, I'd get the Maltese Maduin first.
“Celes, where is Gestahl's office?”
“It's somewhere on the fifth floor. The only problem is I don't know the combination to his safe.”
“Don't worry your pretty little head Celes. You're talking to world-renowned treasure hunter Locke Cole. I can pick through any lock, and crack into any safe!” I boasted confidently. We ran full speed up to the fifth floor, facing no opposition, which was weird. Maybe the gangsters were with Kefka, I don't know. I shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth. We reached Gestahl's office, but the door was locked. Damn I thought to myself, and then I quickly checked my pockets. I still had that dead gangster's keys. I tried each one, throwing away about five of them until I found the right one. We quickly entered his office, Celes watching the door as I quickly went right to the safe.
“This shouldn't take too long Snowflake!” I boasted again.
“Well for God's sake get to it honey!” Celes snapped back.
Hmmmm…let me see. It was a pretty standard safe. All I had to do was turn the knobs and listen for the clicks. It was child's play. Maybe Kefka was kinda right on how Gestahl was getting lazy. It only took me a few minutes and I heard that last hard click.
“What'd I tell ya angel face? No lock is too hard for Locke Cole to pick, no safe too secure for me to break into!” I open the door was ready to faint if it wasn't for the fact that armed men were after us. It was pay dirt…pure and simple. There was gold treasure everywhere, the luster nearly blinding me as my mouth watered with an insatiable thirst for riches.
“IT'S OURS…ALL OURS!” I yell jumping for joy as I immediately went right back down to the safe and filled my pockets with the loot, not to mention grabbing the statuette, placing it securely in a luggage bag of Gestahl's. I happened to notice the most looking beautiful diamond ring in the far back, still in its case. I pulled it out and for some unknown reason, I immediately say this to Celes, “Celes honey, if we make it out of this, I want you to marry me. With this much gold, we can live together for the rest of our lives in splendor, just you and me! My God I love you!” I don't know what came over me. Maybe it was the treasure, or maybe it was Celes's captivating beauty, but I realized I just proposed to her. She could only snicker back and reply as she allows me to place the ring on her finger.
“Yes Locke, yes I will marry you. I love you Locke.” We both reach towards each other and kiss, only to hear someone bust through the door.
“WHAT THE HELL?” The gangster yells, “We have intruders! Sound the alarm!” That was the last thing he said before I put an end to his yelling with a well placed pistol shot. It looks like we were in for a gunfight. Good for me…my trigger fingers were gettin' itchy anyway. The alarm blared all over the refinery, so now we were in trouble.
“Get ready Snowflake! We're in for it now!”
“I'm all set,” she assures me as she reaches for her pistol.
We had to run like hell now, back to the laundry room to grab Hope. The stairways were mess, full of clutter and debris. It was game time. I heard some goons running upstairs. I quickly aimed my pistols and opened fire, dropping all three of them. This wasn't even fair. I was too good for them. We managed to fight our way to the laundry room, where the baby was still in its makeshift basket. The poor thing must be crying its lungs out from all of the commotion. I ran over to the baby and tried to calm it down. The poor thing was terrified and continued to wail. I had no other choice but to grab the baby and run out, but unfortunately I ran into a little speed bump. Two armed men waited for me at the door, and Celes was nowhere to be seen. To make matters worse, I was out of ammo to boot.
“Drop the baby right now or we'll paste the both of ya!”
“Ok…ok…whatever you say.” I respond trying to think of a way out of this. Suddenly I hear two loud bangs and the two men fall forward, only to show Celes with a smoking .38 in her hands.
“Thank God I've got you Snowflake!” I say calm and cool. She smiled right back as we both made tracks down towards the basement exit. She was a good shot, just like Terra. It's as if Terra was here with me, but there's no time for emotional thought. We had to scram.
“Look out Locke! There's more of them!” Celes screams. Five men come out of different rooms and spray fire on us. Luckily we managed to find a table to hide behind as they continued to assault us.
“How are we gonna get outta here gumshoe?”
“Don't worry…I have something up my sleeve!” I look around to see them running towards me. I quickly grab a grenade, homemade with pride, and pull the pin. Three seconds later and I scream, “Fire in the hole!”
KABOOM! The grenade goes off, sending three of them flying. The other two were dazed, giving Celes and me enough time to finish them off. A door busts open and some prick with a Tommy gun thinks he'll get us, but my Colt .45 disagreed, sending a nice leaden argument to his head. It gave him something to think about. Bullets sprayed everywhere as Celes and I fought our way out. We worked like a team. Whenever one of us had to reload, the other covered for us. Side doors opened everywhere and men poured in like it was a flood. Celes had some time to take care of a few while running. She was really good. We found a shaft towards the basement, so we quickly jumped in, but we didn't expect the hard landing. I went first so Celes didn't hurt her pretty svelte body, oh man it hurt, but I quickly sprang to my feet.
Kefka then comes completely out of right field and screams, “You idiots! Gimme that gun!” He grabs a Thompson from one of the men and sprays it all over the room, hitting the oil boiler.
BOOOOOOOM! The explosion rocked everyone all across the room like it was a typhoon, including Kefka, Celes, and myself. I was still able to hold onto the baby and the bag with the Maltese Maduin as the blast knocked me into some boxes. There was fire everywhere. I could hardly see who was who as I scrambled to find Celes.
“CELES? CELES WHERE ARE YOU?” I screamed at the top of my lungs as bullets continued to pour all around.
“LOCKE! I'M HERE! LOCKE!” I saw her…trapped behind flaming debris. The only way for her to go was back into the refinery, which was going to burn down. Her delicate face was smudged with soot.
“Hang on Celes! I'll save you!” I tried removing the debris, but the fire nearly scalded my hands badly. NO! This was not happening. I will not lose another woman! I managed to get a grip on Celes's hand.
“Don't worry about me Locke! I'll be fine! Get the baby out of here now!”
“But Celes…” My grip tightens on her.
“GET OUT NOW! I'll be fine!”
“No Celes…I'll get you out! I said I will and I will God damn it! I let someone go before, and I promise I'll never let go again.”
“NOW I SAY! I'll see you again…count on it Locke Cole. I love you!” She yells to me as she glances to see a man running after me and promptly ends his assault.
“I love you too Celes.” I sigh, placing a little faith in the blonde beauty, and run off. I let go…and I hated myself for doing it. I couldn't look back, it hurt too much, but I was confident she'd get herself out. I managed to find the exit and busted out at full speed, running to the middle of the lot. I saw a faint fire in the distance, taking my binoculars quickly. I noticed it was my car.
“SHIT!” I yelled, which unfortunately attracted one of the guard posts and now I had .30 caliber MG fire raining on me. I thought this was the end, until I saw a car screeching by, spraying fire into the tower.
“GET IN LOCKE!” A familiar voice yells to me. The person sticks her head out the window. It was Terra! Thank Almighty God it was her.
“TERRA! You came just in time. We need to wait for Celes though.”
“I'll explain later…give me some time to get her.” I quickly put the baby and the statuette in the car. Right before my eyes, the refinery explodes as I run back to save Celes, flames shooting out of the windows like a fiery inferno. “NOOOO! CELES!” I knelt down, knowing no one could have survived that blast, and was broken inside. I couldn't move…I didn't want to.
“Come on Locke!” Terra screams as she runs over to me, trying to drag me. “We have to get out of here now!” She drags on my arm as I force myself to run back to the car, still holding my arm out to the refinery where Celes was still in…nearly crying. We get in the car and speed off, Terra at the wheel while I rode shotgun. Off in the distance I noticed a figure running out from the garage. Oh no! It's Kefka! He was signaling the men to get in the three cars parked and follow us.
“We've got company!” A man in the back yells to Terra. The man looked familiar. He was a big as a tank and wielding a shotgun. It was Sabin! What on Earth was he doing here?
“Sabin? What are you doing here?” I ask.
“Hey buddy…how're ya doin'?” He greets me lightly. “Oh you never knew. Along with my Albrook bouncer job, I've been part of the Mobliz security with Terra for quite some time. Things are good!”
“Hey will you two be quiet? We've got a situation on our hands!” Terra yells as bullets whiz by, one hitting the back window and shattering it into a thousand fragments. Luckily the baby was unharmed. “God damn it! Locke…can you deal with this?”
“Sure thing Terra!” I quickly open the window and stick myself out. Terra was unfortunately making it hard on me swerving left and right trying to dodge the bullet fire. I unloaded two clips on the lead car, but all I did was hit the man in front. “Damn it! I need to reload!”
“Make it quick Locke!” Terra yells.
I managed to reload my two Colts quickly and get right back in the fray. Using only one clip, I hit the driver who careened off to the side and right into a wall.
“Great job Locke…that's one down!” Terra compliments.
“Thanks, but we're not safe yet!” I reply.
One down, two to go. The next car zoomed right up to us, this time spraying Thompson fire from the passenger side instead of just pistols. I tried using my last clip, then suddenly a burning rip tears through the top of my shoulder. “GOD DAMN IT! I'm hit!” I yell to Terra, holding my shoulder. The pain was familiar, but still hurt like a mother.
“Ok Locke…we'll clean that up later. On my mark, we switch seats ok? Sabin, can you provide us with cover fire?”
“Sure thing Terra…I'll get 'em.”
“Good. Ready Locke…we switch on three. One…two…three…SWITCH!” We quickly switch seats while Sabin fires a few shotgun rounds into the assaulting car, slowing it down. Now I have to drive with only one hand…great. Lucky for them I'm a good driver. “Ok guys you wanna mess with me huh?” Terra barks as she whips out her Thompson and unleashes leaden fury on the car accompanied by a wild yell while Sabin pumps another three rounds into the car. KABOOM! The car explodes and does a flip in the air. Two cars down, one to go.
“Great shooting Terra!” Sabin and I both yell in unison and then look at each other with a strange look for a few seconds, then quickly got to driving away. There was garbage lying around everywhere and all of those boxes and debris made it rather difficult to drive smoothly. When I saw both of the other cars we destroyed, it looked like just goons in them. So by my assumptions…Kefka, the big fish, was still hot on our trail. He zoomed right behind us, trying to fish-tail us. The car shook all over as Kefka continually rammed us, causing the baby to wail again. Terra tried calming it down.
“It's ok sweetie…Mama, Uncle Sabin, and Uncle Locke's got you. You're gonna be all right!” You had to love her. Even in situations like these she was calm and cool. Kefka eventually stopped ramming us and decided to pull towards our rear corner. I happened to notice with a widening eye of horror that he pulled out a B.A.R. That was a Browning Automatic Rifle, a very friggin' powerful machine gun. I could see that he was now hell-bent on killing us all, Hope included, instead of just taking back what he stole.
“Guys…we have a big problem on our hands…it's Kefka, and he looks like he's blown a head gasket!!!” I yelled.
“I'm on him…don't worry!” Terra responds as she sticks herself out of the window and empties a cartridge into Kefka's car. She only got a few shots off on the car. Now Kefka was ready to open fire.
“EVERYBODY GET DOWN NOW!” Sabin yells as Kefka sprays his magazine into the car. My God was that B.A.R. loud! It ripped through our car like a hot knife through butter, all twenty bullets in the cartridge getting in. Terra got shreds of bullets that skinned her leg and her arm. Sabin yells in pain as well.
“TERRA! Are you alright?” I asked worryingly.
“I'll be ok, just get Kefka!”
Kefka pulls back again to reload. Terra's car couldn't take much more damage. We were already slowing down significantly. Kefka would get us for sure. Suddenly he pulls up to my side as I continue to struggle to get away.
“Now no one will save you Locke and Terra!” He screams as he finishes reloading. I then remembered that I still had that knife that Celes used to cut me free. Without hesitation I quickly pull it out and flash it right to Kefka.
“No…no…don't!” Kefka screams, like his begging will work. I then in a flash threw the blade right at the tires. It was now or never throwing that knife, because if Kefka let loose another magazine…we were finished. Bull's eye! The knife hit the front right tire, causing it to explode and Kefka's car lost control. It skidded off to the left and soon tipped over, causing it to do a barrel roll about three times before slamming into a wall, exploding on impact into a million fragments. No one could've survived that. That was it, the end of it all. It was the end of Gestahl and Kefka's reign of terror, and it was all thanks to Terra, Sabin and I. We couldn't help but cheer from the carnage we caused them, knowing Mobliz and Figaro was now safe from their crimes.
“We did it! We did it Locke! We killed Kefka! We're heroes! That was a one in a million throw!” Terra yells overjoyed as she hugged me firmly in the car giving me a peck on the cheek.
“OWWW…jeez that hurts!”
“Sorry Locke…I'm just so happy…thanks to you!”
It hurt me obviously due to the wound, but I didn't let her know that as I smirked with a somewhat satisfied grin, hiding the real pain I felt. Once again I lost someone, I lost Celes. Once again, someone in this world that meant something to me was gone, all because she wanted to help me when she shouldn't have. Straggling along on the way back to Mobliz, it was safe to say that the case could finally be considered closed. The baby was safe and sound, the Maltese Maduin was intact and back in Terra's possession, and Mobliz, Figaro, or any other city wouldn't have to worry about Gestahl's Gang any time soon. I just wish that Celes was around to see our victory. To Terra and Sabin, this was the greatest thing to happen to them. To me, it was another colossal failure trying to save another love.
Part 4: Return to Simplicity
The car was in shambles when we finally returned to Mobliz, but we managed to get back safe and sound. It was a mess of lead, broken glass, and twisted steel inside, we were lucky to survive that. We were damn lucky. Limping into Terra's house, with the baby and statuette in tow, we all needed some good rest and recovery. I probably fared the worst. I was beaten, bruised, burned, cut, shot, and not to mention shattered inside, the guilt and depression sinking deeper and deeper. I needed a bath, and a fifth of Jack to boot. We had to get ourselves cleaned up. Terra was stinging badly from those semi-wounds from the bullets, and some glass cut her back. Sabin also suffered cuts on his hands and arms, along with little shrapnel wounds from those B.A.R. blasts. Luckily, the medical supplies I bought from the Albrook store were still in my pockets, along with the loot I stole from Gestahl. I gave most of them to Terra and Sabin so they could patch themselves up quickly. Within an hour, they were completely bandaged and able to move around much better.
“Come Locke…let me draw you a bath…you need those wounds washed.” Terra says, which was music to my ears. “Wow…you got really banged up!” She exclaims while observing my bruises, cuts, and wounds all over my body. “Don't worry…I can take care of it.”
Drawing a nice warm bath, she had me sit down while she cleaned my wounds with some water and peroxide. She was wearing a plain white tank-top with her beige pants, still suffered blood stains, but she was in good shape, now that she was bandaged. She was truly amazing, beautiful no matter how she looked, just like Celes.
“This'll sting a little bit tiger. Just bite your tongue.”
Ouch. The peroxide felt like it was eating away at my skin, with burning that felt like I was in hell. She had that healing power of hers though. She knew exactly how to make anyone feel better.
“I want to thank you Locke…for everything you've done with this. Sabin returned the baby to Duane and Katarin and they are eternally grateful towards your actions. You're a hero to them Locke…a hero to me as well.” She smiles as she continues to scrub my body delicately with the soapy sponge, sighing as she sees my scarred chest and arms, knowing the physical pain I've suffered. “Here… have a drink of this…it'll help numb the pain.” She offers me a shot of Jack Daniels like she was a psychic or something. I accept it without delay and down it faster than a jackrabbit. She always knew what I wanted…she was special she was. It definitely hit the spot.
“Thank you Terra…you've always been there for me, taking care of me when I needed it. Hey Terra…why is that Maduin thing so important to you anyway?”
“Well…if you really wanna know. It is the only link I have of my family. I never knew my family too well, but my mother used to tell me when I was little about how that statue was an heirloom to of the Branford family. That statue was the “Esper” my family symbolized, Maduin, who represented the power of love and compassion. I never knew it was made of this “Magicite” until recently, when I actually read about the Espers. I then understood why Gestahl wanted it so badly, because Magicite in the wrong hands could have brought devastation to the towns and cities. I had to protect it from all threats, because that statuette not only represented a potential threat to people, but it was the most sacred thing to me when my mother was kidnapped. I brought it with me everywhere, and when I brought it to Mobliz, the compassion it represented inspired me to help the children along with Duane and Katarin. That statuette helped teach me what love and compassion really were. You have no idea how grateful I am that you were able to retrieve it. You saved a lot of people, including me. Thank you Locke.”
“Terra…I never knew…” I was speechless.
“It's ok Locke, I'll be fine,” she nearly starts choking up, but then clears her throat. “We need to get you cleaned up and ready for a nice warm bed!”
A half an hour later, I was given some clean clothes, a relief from the blood-soaked suit that stained my body all over. They managed to find a bed, a nice soft pillow, and some warm blankets. The clothes were a bit of a tight fit. Beggars can't be choosers I guess, but I made the most with what I had. Terra came in the room, just checking up on me.
“Everything ok with you tiger?”
“I'm grateful for your actions Terra.”
“Locke, are you ok?” She notices my rather glum look despite everything we've accomplished.
“I can never understand Terra…everyone I'm around always ends up hurt or dead. I'm glad everyday that you possess the strength to live through each day. I don't know if I have that anymore.”
“Locke…you're an incredible human being…you've touched more lives than you could imagine. Stop beating yourself up over the past and what you think you've failed at. Live life like it is a success to get through it everyday, no matter what you do.”
“Terra…” I could only stand up and gaze into her eyes. I then for some reason bent my head down and kissed her. I wanted her again for that moment. Our lips locked only for a few seconds, but then she pulled away.
“Forgive me Locke. I know you still love me, and I still love you too, but it can't be like it was those years ago. I met Sabin a year and a half ago when he became another member of my team. I don't know how, but we fell in love only a few months after. Please understand Locke…Sabin is a great guy. He's wonderful around the children, he's passionate, and he's very protective. He, to me, is somewhat of a kindred spirit. He's like me in many ways. He's like you too Locke. I'm sorry, but I needed someone to fill the void when you left. I hate hurting you like this, especially when you've run into so many misfortunes. You'll always be in my heart Locke Cole, remember that.”
“It hurts Terra…it really does, but I understand though. I was a coward those years ago, when we were together. I couldn't face the fact that I loved you and that we should've been together, but it was my entire fault. I wasn't mature enough to handle it. I'm glad you found Sabin. He'll be a wonderful man for you. Unfortunately I'll have to start anew, now that I've lost all three women I've loved, Rachel, you, and Celes. When that refinery exploded, the last shred of hope of love I had died in there. Celes was that last beacon of hope, and now she's gone. Maybe I was just destined to be lonely as a ghost Terra…maybe I was.”
“Don't say that Locke! Life has a funny way of making things work out. You'll find love soon Locke, it'll come back when you least expect it. I'm sure Celes was a fantastic woman, but she made a sacrifice to make sure you lived and that the baby lived. You could consider Celes a heroine.”
“It's kinda funny Terra. You always said it'd take forever for you to find love, but it seems that it's the other way around. Thanks again Terra…you're the best friend I ever had. It's getting late…we need rest.”
“Right. Good night Locke, and don't worry, love will come. It always does.”
“Good night Terra.” We kiss each other good night and part. I get into bed, only with some mild discomfort due to my wounds, but it's nothing to whine about. A few minutes later, as I begin to contemplate what Terra was talking about, I happen to overhear Sabin and Terra.
“Hey doll face, why don't ya come over here and gimme some of that lovin' healing?” Sabin says aloud as, from what I can imagine, he walks over to Terra and sweeps her off her feet.
“Hee hee…Sabin stop that!” She playfully protests.
“You kicked ass tonight doll, I'm proud, and now you're gonna get your reward!”
“Oh Sabin, you're so lame. Hey! Hee hee…cut it out. Sabin! Sabin stop!” She continues to scream lightheartedly while giggling. “I love you Sabin Figaro.”
“I love you too Terra Branford. Will you marry me?” Sabin proposes to Terra.
“Yes…yes I will marry you. I'll always love you Sabin.”
The words were like emotional daggers, piercing every inch of my body. It's official. I have now lost every woman I've ever fallen in love with. All I could hear were Sabin and Terra kissing, giggling, and then doing God knows what. I could only lie on my bed, and then, something unexpected happened. I start to cry. I break down and tears run down my cheeks, just like Celes did when we were in the refinery. I was ready to just let my heart give up and die in my sleep, but for some reason I didn't give up that easily. Terra was right, there's always hope…always another chance. I would find love one day….all I needed was patience and persistence.
“Thank you Terra…thank you for everything.” I whispered aloud before falling asleep.
One week later:
“Another drink, Mr. Cole?” The bartender asks.
“Sure why not…another whiskey please.”
“Here you are Mr. Cole.”
“Say Mr. Cole, did you ever see that pretty lady Celes again?”
“No…sorry Gau. Celes died when I was in that refinery, along with my heart. How's it going with you and Relm?”
“I'm sorry to hear about that Mr. Cole. Relm and I are still together. When I get older and get a better place, I'm gonna ask her to marry me.”
“The best of luck to ya Gau. Here's a toast! To love, may it always inspire our every action and word!”
“Here here Mr. Cole.” He replies as we clack our drinks together and slug them down.
“I have to go to the bathroom Gau. Do you mind watching my seat?”
“Sure thing sir, I'll watch it.”
I enter the dimly lit bathroom, holding back any tears I might have had brooding over Celes. “Come on Locke…get it together! Remember what Terra told you!” I wash my face with cold water to get my bearings straight. I had to live my life the way Terra told me, no matter what happens. Life got boring though after that night with Kefka and that little adventure with Terra and Sabin. Business was slow, and the treasure I stole from Gestahl was still in my apartment, but I never used it for anything. I for some reason held on to it, maybe as a nostalgic reminder of that night where Celes and I became one, as an ideal team fighting evil. Enough of this sappy sobbing! I had to get back and polish off my last drink.
I sat right back down and was ready to order my last Manhattan, when suddenly I noticed a small, delicate glass of white wine on my section of the countertop. It seemed too familiar.
“What is this Gau?”
“Oh…some woman ordered that for you.” Gau responds.
“I think he means me big guy.” A woman suddenly startles me from behind. I turn around, and it is like I'm hallucinating. It was the same angelic figure and voice I remembered from that fateful night.
“CELES? Oh my God…Celes…you're alive?”
“Did you think that a little fire was gonna melt this snowflake?” You had to admire her…still sassy after all that's happened.
I was speechless…I tried to mutter something but I was too choked up. “Oh Celes…you're alive! This is incredible! How on Earth did you survive?”
“Well funny you should ask gumshoe. When you left after I told you to, another explosion opened a wall up back into the refinery. The only problem was getting through Kefka's men. I still had six bullets in my revolver, so I used them to polish off anyone shooting at me. I ran inside and was able to find a section still not engulfed in the flames. I then remembered that Gestahl had a private car stashed away somewhere in a completely secret garage. Only Gestahl, Kefka, and I knew where it was. I quickly ran up to his office and found the keys. His secret garage was in the second basement level of the refinery, so I ran down there and was able to find the car. I quickly got in the car and sped off, the garage collapsing just seconds after my escape. I was lucky to remember that and get out in time. I'm ecstatic to see you're alive too. I thought you didn't make it when I heard Kefka zoom after you, but then I realized that fate would bring us together again. The newspapers proved that for me.”
“That's quite a story Celes. I'm quite overcome to be honest.” The fact that she was alive nearly moved me to tears. “I'm so glad you're alive, because I was serious about that night. I love you Celes. It took me some time to realize, but when I met you, I knew you were the one for me. Like you said before, you and I are like two peas in a pod. I'll always be there for you Celes. Now we can be together like we promised…do you remember?”
Celes flicks her right hand up, showing the beautiful diamond ring I gave her that night. “Locke please…a classy woman like me never lets go of a promise like that. I want us to be together too. I will marry you Locke Cole, and I want to spend the rest of my life together with you. Let's leave this city, let's leave our jobs, and start anew! I just wish we had the money for all that to make us happy for the rest of our lives.” Celes contradicts herself with disappointment.
“Don't worry Snowflake…you remember the gold and jewels I took from Gestahl? I still have them, so we can be secure for our entire lives.”
“Oh Locke…I love you. Let's live a simple life somewhere! Let's raise a family…but where will we go?”
“I think I know the perfect place to live our 'simple life.'”
A year and a half later, in the summertime:
The evening sun still radiated in the small town. It was getting late, but it was still enjoyable to sit out on the porch and gaze. I could see the children playing in the common across the street, without a care in the world. Celes and I moved into Mobliz, knowing that the town was perfect for our ideal “simple life.” Celes gave birth to a beautiful baby girl eight months ago, whom we named Catherine. My baby girl was indeed beautiful, because she looked just like my beautiful wife Celes. I finally cashed in the treasure I took from Gestahl, giving us over $750,000. I hit it big, and shared the wealth with the entire town. I used the money for supplies, food, and all sorts of things for the kids. I of course kept a little bit of the money to support my family, maybe perk 'em a little bit too. Since we moved in, Governor Edgar, discovering our efforts in eliminating Kefka and Gestahl, pledged to send aid to rebuild Mobliz. Mobliz was now a peaceful little town, free from crime and violence. I also think it the arrival of aid was also due to the fact that his twin brother Sabin was living there. Speaking of which, Sabin and Terra Figaro also had a son, who they named Vincent. It was around 6:00 PM, it was time to wrap things up. I ran into Sabin while walking down the porch.
“Hey Sabin. You here to get Terra?”
“Yeah…ever since you and Celes moved in to Mobliz, it's like they're attached at the hip!” He jokingly answers.
“Yeah I know what you mean. They're great women though our wives are.”
We walk to the community gardens, and just like my dream, there they are, barefoot in the garden planting their lasts seeds with only their work clothes. Except now Celes is with me, her blonde locks waving around sensually as she gets up and walks over to me. Terra waves to me but it preoccupied with Sabin.
“Hey big guy…you here to take me home?” She asks me.
“You bet I am. How was gardening for my little starlet?” I gently ask as I look into her baby blue eyes.
“It's wonderful. This was the simple life I was looking for…full of relaxing days, rewarding works, beautiful children, including our own sweet little daughter Catherine. I love it, just like I love you Locke Cole. Thank you Locke.” She grabs the back of my neck and yanks my head right into a passionate kiss. All I could do was kiss her right back.
“I love you too Celes Cole. We need to think about dinner soon. I heard Sabin is cooking up a nice feast for us, Duane, Katarin, and the children! It sounds promising.”
“I hope it is…I need all the food I can get, what with another baby on the way.”
I was absolutely shocked. “You're pregnant again?” Celes smiles as she taps her stomach hinting that she is. I then became ecstatic. I suddenly sweep her off her feet ignoring the dirt she was covered in and yelled, “We're gonna have another baby!” All Sabin and Terra could do was laugh, congratulating us on our blessing. Terra was already three months pregnant with another child. She and Sabin loved children so much, I guess they couldn't wait to have another one. “This is incredible…I'm gonna be a father again!”
“I know…it's so exciting! I'm gonna be a mother again.” Celes giggles as we embrace ourselves again with a kiss.
An hour later, we all sat down to what was a bonanza of meats, vegetables, bread, and all sorts of delicious meals. It was a feast for royalty…and damn well it should be. Terra and Sabin sat at one end of the table, while Duane and Katarin sat at the other end, with Hope in tow. Celes and I sat right in the middle of the long stretch of table, mouths watering at all the sorts of food prepared. Catherine was next to us and Vincent sat right next to Terra and Sabin. Sabin was quite the expert chef, but I had reason to believe that Terra helped just a little bit in the cooking. Sabin was also a bit of a klutz, so Terra always had to keep him in line. They were happy together though, Sabin being the massive, rugged, strong, but gentle-hearted husband and Terra being the kind, strong-willed, passionate, but feisty wife. I couldn't be happier, because not only were all my friends happy with who they had, but I had someone of my own too. I offered a toast.
“Here's a toast! To us as heroes and heroines, who stopped Kefka and Gestahl in their tracks forever! To the peace of our town, may it last forever! To happiness, friendship, and most importantly…love,” as I glance to Celes, who just looks into my eyes as her response. “Cheers!” We all clack our glasses, all of us, including the kids, and drink to our pleasantries.
Finally getting myself to stop the semantics, I dig in with haste along with the others. It was delicious. I made sure Celes had enough to keep her stuffed for days, what with this baby on the way, she was gonna need all the sustenance she could get. After about two steaks, a salad, and a whole loaf of bread, I was stuffed. Celes definitely had her fill as well, seeing as she was about to fall over. Sabin, the biggest one of all, just continued to voraciously devour everything in sight, Terra watching embarrassed as she shakes her head, but smiles underneath. The kids were nearly passed out, so that meant it was time to read them their stories and get them to bed.
After getting the children to bed, we left to our respective homes. Duane and Katarin left to the center of town, where they lived in the mayor's house. Terra and Sabin lived right next to us, so we both drove along the same way. Poor Sabin had a little too much to drink, so all three of us had to help carry his behemoth body into the house. We could only help but laugh, seeing as this wasn't the first time he's gotten plastered. We managed to get him inside after about fifteen minutes of pulling, pushing, and moving everything around. Getting the sleeping Vincent inside was a cakewalk compared to getting Sabin inside.
“I'll take it from here guys,” Terra says. “He'll be better in the morning.” Terra herself was a little tipsy, but still coherent. “You have yourselves a good night, ok?” She reached over and gives us both kisses.
“Good night Terra.” We reply in unison.
We walk over to our own little home, with Catherine in tow. Our little angel was asleep, so it was no sweat getting her in bed. The time seemed to just fly by, as it became 10:00 PM without warning. I would probably stay up another hour or two, and then hit the rack. Sabin, Duane, and I had a big day of rebuilding some of the houses, along with build a new school for the children. I decided to get some fresh air…it was way too stuffy inside.
I walk onto the porch I made for Celes and the baby a year ago. It creaked and still needed a good second paint job, but it was a gift for them, and they loved it. For once I felt complete. I abandoned my job as a private eye or mercenary or whatever the hell I did and returned to the simple life. That wouldn't take me away from my “treasure hunting” adventures, but now I had a partner, being my wife, and she learned the art quickly. We'd leave Catherine with Terra and be off for a week or two. Those were some of the best weeks of my life. I stare at the stars and dig into my pockets. I found an old pack of my Lucky Strikes, the same ones I smoked long ago.
I was tempted…tempted to pull one out and take a drag for old time's sake. A nice puff on one would really relieve me. No one was around, so I reached in and grabbed one, along with a pack of matches I used to light the dinner candles. I put it in my mouth, only to hear my lovely wife's voice right behind me. The background was filled with the soothing voice of Nat King Cole and “L-O-V-E,” our wedding song, the song that united us in the first place.
“Locke honey…what're you doing?” She asks.
I slowly pull the cigarette out of my mouth. “Nothing honey…nothing.” Her voice made me realize something. These cigarettes…were a relic. They were a relic of the hard times in my life, when I depended on them to keep me going every day as a detective and as Terra's right-hand man. They symbolized the old Locke Cole…the Locke who was in pain. They symbolized the Locke Cole who was afraid of love and just couldn't get a break in life. They symbolized everything that troubled me in the past, that kept me awake at night, but now they're nothing I thought to myself as I think of something to say.
“I'm just throwing these last cigarettes away. I'm quitting Celes. These cigs remind me of nothing but the bad times in the past, so I'm getting rid of them for good. Besides…they're bad for the baby I mean 'babies.'”
“Oh Locke.” She replies looking right into my eyes.
I clenched my fist on the pack, reducing it to a lump of tobacco and paper, and quickly threw it as hard as possible out of my hand, sending it for what seemed like a mile. The weight was finally off my shoulders, the pain finally ceasing. For a moment it looked as if Rachel was above in the stars, smiling at me, happy that I was finally at peace, with love in my heart again. I smiled back to the stars.
“You know honey,” I say, “I know what goes well with your name…the word celestial. 'Celestial' Celes Cole…I like that name. When I look at those stars, the infinite, wonderful, celestial stars, I can only think of you, and how much being with you has made me at peace and will continue to do so for the rest of our lives.”
“Locke Cole…you never cease to amaze me with your romance. Don't think you're the only one who's found their little slice of heaven. You ended my loneliness and my pain; you helped this lost little girl find her way home, into your arms.” She joins me looking at the stars, her arms slung around my hip. She smiles up there, as if she seems someone too. Maybe it's Cid, her once only provider, happy that she's no longer alone and cold.
“I wonder what the future will bring us Snowflake. Our guns are silenced, our troubles over, and life is becoming like a brand new page. No matter what happens, be it good or bad, peace or even war, we'll be there for each other. Even if we are apart, we'll always be together ok?”
“I can't predict the future honey, but one thing I know is that whatever happens, it will happen with the both of us together…always and forever.”
We stare into each others eyes and then lock lips, on that rickety porch, making the moment feel like it is lasting forever. I had a hunch that the days and nights like these would go one for years, with us holding each other in a passionate kiss. Celes and I loved each other, and no one could change that. I finally had everything I wanted in my life, a wife, a budding family, and my personal demons vanquished. I was no longer a failure, but a hero, to myself and to my wife. I was finally happy. Terra was finally happy. There was no need for a heaven if I'm already there. I then remembered my wedding picture with Celes…how she and I looked so perfect, how she looked so beautiful, how it hung over the head of our bed, and carved above it painted in black were the most important words in the English dictionary to me.
They read: “LOVE…ALWAYS AND FOREVER.”