(New York City, District X, present)
Police Officer Gus Kucharsky lies in a hospital bed. His head is bandaged and an ECG monitors his heartbeat. Gus is quite weak and can only whisper to the shadowed figure sitting nearby. Gus asks Ismael if he’s been sitting there long. Ismael informs him that he’s been there a while and wanted to be there when he woke up. He stands and walks over to the bed and Gus asks what happened. “You don’t remember?” enquires Ismael. It’s kind of hazy, comes the reply. Ismael tells him that being shot in the head will do that to you. Gus’s eyes widen with surprise but Ismael assures him that he’ll live; the bullet just creased him. He guesses it bounced off his thick skull.
Gus tells him that Norma always said this would happen if they stayed in New York. She wanted to move to Georgia. She had folks there. He wants to know what happened, so Ismael decides to tell him. It was a pretty typical day. He was driving and Gus was riding shotgun, shooting his mouth off as usual.
“Good M-o-o-orning, District X.” Gus is riding shotgun with Ismael ‘Izzy’ Ortega driving as they tour the streets of District X, New York City’s eleventh precinct. The place has seen better days and their patrol car moves slowly through the litter-strewn streets. Gus hates this place. He compares the streets to a woman; mean, dirty and low-down but kinda fascinating. Sometimes you love her, sometimes you hate her, but you always have to come back for more. Izzy says he’s such a jerk.
A young boy waves down their car and calls Izzy’s name .He stops and asks what’s up. Mikey, or Mikhail to give him his proper name, informs him that his Uncle Gregor has fallen asleep again. Izzy sees Gregor asleep on a park bench with two kids ridiculing him. Izzy steps out of the car and puts on his cap, asking Gus to call in a 10-69. He asks Mikey if he’s called his mom and he says that she’s on her way.
Izzy wakes up Gregor, whose eyes open with a start. He is a bearded man with tired eyes. He is also a mutant and his hands and feet have become physically rooted to the park bench. Izzy grasps his shoulders, asking him not to move until his sister arrives. “Five minutes! I sit down for five minutes to read my book… Is that too much to ask?” Gregor is clearly exasperated by his mutation and Gus is equally annoyed at having to deal with this type of situation. He asks if they are cops or the social services. “Mutant weirdos.”
Mikey’s mother, Mitya, arrives and reaches into her purse, asking him if he forgot his pills. He replies that the pills are no good. She pulls out a pair of garden clippers and asks where Mikhail was when this happened. Gregor asks her not to blame Mikhail, as he was playing with friends. She tells him to hold still and carefully snaps each of the roots, freeing him. This causes Gregor a certain amount of pain and Mikhail hugs him as Mitya frees his feet. Another pair of good shoes ruined. Gregor apologizes to Mitya for being a trouble to her, as she prepares to disinfect his cuts. She thanks Gus and Izzy as they depart.
They head back to their patrol car, with Gus rhetorically asking Izzy if he knows why they call this District X. he continues to say that X marks the spot. The way he figures it, some city planner took a big fat marker and drew a big fat X on the map of Manhattan. He said, “That’s where we dump the trash.” Gus isn’t happy that all the ugly, twisted freaks are theirs to serve and protect. He calls headquarters and informs them they’re taking lunch, a 10-63. Izzy suggests that they eat healthy for a change. Jean-Claude’s place is across the street. Gus agrees and asks a kid to watch their wheels. The kid turns and says sure. His insect eyes freak Gus out a little and he doesn’t hesitate in saying so.
Izzy tells him to cut that out and Gus apologizes for using the ‘F’ word. He’ll put a buck in the cuss box. Izzy points out that doing so isn’t the point. These people aren’t freaks, they aren’t trash. They’re citizens, he explains. Before Gus can offer any more excuses, their attentions are diverted towards a beautiful young woman named Lorelei, with long pink hair which seemingly has a life all of its own. Standing outside a pole-dancing club, she’s on a cigarette break but asks the boys if they’re coming in. Gus acts all nice for a second but then he grabs her around the neck and says that it sounds like she’s soliciting for business. Izzy has to calm him down and lead him away. The girl’s companion tells her to get back inside.
Izzy asks Gus what’s with him today and he replies that it’s nothing a weekend’s hunting won’t cure. He guesses he just needs to kill something. They enter Jean-Claude’s café, the Café des Artistes, and grab themselves a meal. As they eat, Izzy continues to explain that it isn’t just what they see on the streets; that’s just the surface. This district has the highest unemployment rate in the USA. It also has the highest rate if illiteracy and the highest severe overcrowding outside of Los Angeles. Gus acknowledges the statistics but has a few things he wishes to point out. They also have the highest crime rates in the country for narcotics, prostitution, vehicular theft and burglary. That is smack in the middle of New York, which is supposed to be the safest major city in the USA. He tells Izzy he can call it what he likes; Mutant Town, Freak City, whatever. “This district is a cancer, and it’s our job….”
Gus stops mid-sentence as he notices a young man outside their window. He smears his body all over the window and appears to be going through several different emotions, as his body morphs through a series of rainbow colors. The two officers step outside, only to see the guy leaving with his girlfriend, who creates a small energy whirlpool with her hands. Izzy asks the waitress what those kids are on and she replies that they’re juicers. Toad Juice has been around for a few weeks and half the kids here are on it.
Izzy’s radio clicks on and headquarters asks for any available units to respond. They have an incident on McCarthy Avenue. They’ve received a garbled message but it may be false imprisonment. A woman reports that her sister is being held against her will by her spouse. Izzy confirms that they’ll check it out.
By the time they reach McCarthy Avenue, the weather has turned for the worse, as rain pounds the streets like bad news. They meet two women standing outside an apartment block and Izzy asks if one of them is Ms. Danziger. A young blonde woman introduces herself and informs them that her sister needs help. They head indoors, where she explains that her sister is being held prisoner. Izzy needs some background, so they move to Ms. Danziger’s friend’s flat.
Gus checks out a promotional poster for the flat’s owner, Patricia Hamilton: the Amazing Merwoman, whilst Izzy asks the questions. He asks why she thinks her sister is being held prisoner. Ms. Danziger replies that he hasn’t let her sister out in weeks, as he thinks men will fall in love with her. “Jealous type, huh?” enquires Gus. Ms. Danziner continues that it’s worse. He thinks any man who hears her voice will go crazy for her on the spot. He thinks she’s a mutant. Izzy asks if she is, but Ms. Danziger doesn’t respond to that. She says boys used to fight over her, a lot. One time, she explains, there was a stabbing over her. The boy who did it said she cast a spell over him; called her a siren.
After that, Jake Costanza turned up and proposed to her the day they met. They left for Las Vegas the next night and, a week later, she received a postcard saying they were married. It took her eighteen months to find out where she was. Izzy asks if they’ve been living here all this time. Her friend, Patricia, replies that they’ve been here for the last year. He told everyone she was mute. Ms. Danziger insists she isn’t mute. He’s just got this crazy idea in his head. Izzy asks if she’s spoken to her sister and she says yeah. Jake allowed her to see her. She looked terrible. She says
Jake isn’t working and they’re living off benefits. He chains her to the radiator when he goes for groceries. With the information they need, the cops head off to visit Jake and Izzy asks Ms. Danziger to stay put.
Soon, Gus is banging on Jake Costanza’s door, demanding he opens it. Jake edges the door open but keeps it on a chain. Izzy explains that they need to speak to his wife but he replies that she’s sick. Gus, hands on hips, makes it clear that they need to speak to her now! Jake checks out his service revolver and says just a minute before closing the door. Gus reckons that he isn’t going to open up and gives him one last chance. Immediately, before Jake has time to open up, Gus kicks the door in and both officers enter, revolvers at the ready.
Inside, they find Jake’s wife sitting on the bed in her underwear. She has her hands tied behind her back and a gag over her mouth. A metal collar is wrapped around her neck with a padlock at the back. The place is a mess and Jake looks physically drained. He pleads with the officers, saying that he has to do this. She’ll drive you crazy. Even her breathing, he adds, as he puts his head into his hands. “Even the sound of her breath passing between her lips.” Tears stream down his face. He’s clearly at the end of his tether. Gus is unimpressed and asks Izzy if he’s gonna cuff him. Izzy notices a chain and padlock wrapped around the radiator and turns to Jake. “You’re under arrest, Mr. Costanza. Please move away from your wife.”
Izzy peers through the blinds in Gus’s hospital ward. He explains that he went to cuff the husband. He turns and asks Gus if he is listening. He’s listening. Izzy proceeds to explain what happened, though his recollection is clearly a little embellished.
“You went to take the gag off the wife.”
Izzy grabs Jake and twists his arm behind his back, holding a pair of handcuffs in his other hand. Gus unties the gag and asks Jake’s wife if she’s okay. She looks into his eyes and whispers, “Thank you.” Gus is immediately caught in her spell, as the words echo through his mind. Izzy informs Jake of his rights but Jake tries to warn Gus not to listen to her.
“But before I could get the cuffs on him, he went berserk.”
Izzy leads Jake away, in cuffs, as Gus checks out the padlock on his wife’s collar.
“He shoved me to one side and grabbed your gun.”
Gus, under her mental spell, turns away from her and heads towards the handcuffed Jake. He says to his wife that he shouldn’t have done that to her and pulls out his revolver, aiming it at Jake. Izzy puts his hand up, unaware of what was really happening.
“He was too fast for us. He started shooting.”
Gus blasts Jake in the chest, the blood splattering over Izzy, who looks on in horror. Jake falls to the floor, dead. Izzy kneels down and turns to Gus. He can’t believe he just did that. Gus then walks back to Jake’s wife and aims the revolver at her. She smiles as he asks, “What did you do to me?”
“Before we could stop him, he shot his wife.”
Gus lets loose another round and she collapses back onto the bed, with a large wound in her chest. Gus then turns the weapon on himself.
“You tried to take the gun off him, Gus. That’s when he shot you.”
Izzy manages to reach Gus, just as he pulls the trigger. “Put it down,” he cries, as a shot rings out. Gus’s head turns as the gun goes off and he falls to the floor, unconscious. Izzy quickly calls in a 10-13 and tells headquarters that an officer is down. He requires urgent medical assistance and there are three casualties with gunshot wounds. Izzy then bends down over Jake and uncuffs him. He then takes Gus’s revolver using a handkerchief to prevent his own fingerprints from contaminating the weapon and places it into Jake’s hand.
“There was nothing we could do.”
With the weapon now planted, Ms. Danziger and the Merwoman suddenly rush into the apartment. Izzy outstretches his hand and warns them not to come in, but they’re already there.
Izzy tells Gus that her voice just drove him crazy. Gus looks up from his bed with knowing eyes. “Thanks Izzy,” is all he says. Izzy informs him that Internal Affairs will be coming by tomorrow and he should just tell it like he told it. Izzy opens the door before Gus calls his name. He turns and Gus explains that he’s loved Norma more than anything but, in all the twenty-one years he was with her, even when they were first dating, he never felt anything like that.
(Eleventh Precinct Station House, later)
Izzy Ortega is back at the station when Chief Esposito calls him into his office. He asks how Gus is doing and Izzy replies that he’ll pull through. The chief rubs his chin and explains that he’s going to have to take him off normal duties while the inquiry goes through. In the meantime, he has a special duty for him. The feds are concerned about the crime levels in District X, so they’ve sent them a detective to look things over. He’s an officer with expertise in dealing with mutants and he needs someone to show him the ropes. He wants Izzy to give him the full tour. Izzy asks just who it is he’s babysitting. A voice comes from a man sitting on a leather chair. The chair spins around. “Long time since anyone called me a baby. The name’s Bishop.”