It is night in New York City. The street is crowded with vehicles of every type, driving to their destinations under the illumination of their headlights, streetlights and the crescent moon above them. On the sidewalk, walking along it or using it to enter or exit any of the buildings lining the street, are throngs of people. One man among these throngs is a sweating, pale-faced young man, his right hand holding a wound under a bloodstained shirt, half hidden beneath his leather coat.
Walking among this sea of strangers, he thinks about this song, “Another Hundred People,” about people pouring into New York City by hundreds, into an ever-increasing faceless mass. It’s from a show called “Company.” And, if there’s anything he, Jamie Madrox – the Multiple Man, knows, it’s company.
Half-doubled over from his wound, Madrox makes his way to a cab, which another pedestrian has hailed. Despite the man being in mid-sentence to the driver about going to Lincoln Center, Jamie knocks him aside, entering the cab without a word. When the man protests, Madrox simply pushes him back, again without a word. Incredulous at being manhandled, the man beings to protest again, until he noticed a red handprint on his white shirt. As he stares down in disbelief, he finally receives an articulation from Madrox, who simply instructs him to close the door of the cab. When the dumbfounded man asks Madrox if it’s blood, he replies with a repeat of his order. Close the door. Then asked by the man if it’s his blood, Madrox sarcastically replies that it won’t be for much longer, then repeats his order for him to close the door, to which the man complies.
Now turning his attention to the cab driver, Madrox speaks the name of his destination. Mutant Town. Rather than acting on this, the driver replies with a “what,” causing Madrox to repeat his destination. As the driver begins to ask a new question, the irritated Madrox leans forward, asking if he has to say everything three times. Having been able to see what he suspected, that his fare is bleeding, in his cab, the driver grows angry, asking Madrox if he has ANY idea of the paperwork… If he dies, Madrox asks. Receiving an affirmative, Madrox asks for clarification: Die in your cab, he means. Exactly, the driver exclaims. To this, he suggests that he let him take him to the hospital…
Nipping this idea in the bud, Madrox informs the driver that it’s too late for that… so how about he take him to Mutant Town… and then he just has a fare… instead of a murder scene on wheels. When the driver points out that he could die en route, Madrox counters that so could the driver. If he gets his meaning. Declaring that he does, loud and clear, the driver speeds off. His immediate problem solved, Madrox takes a moment to once again ponder the city of New York, the Great Melting Pot. What a crock, he thinks. Get it? he thinks to himself.
Continuing, he ponders how there’s no real “melting.” Assorted groups cluster in different areas for mutual support and protection. There’s Chinatown… Little Italy… Christopher Street… and then there’s “Mutant Town.” Difference is, they don’t get tourists… unless they’re looking for trouble… or are just dumb. Or both.
On a dark street in Mutant Town, two youths sit on the steps to their building. After a redheaded young woman walks by, one of them whistles out. Gaining no response, the two begin to follow, the first calling out to her. The redhead pauses briefly, glancing out of her peripheral vision. Grinning devilishly, the first asks her to slow down and give them a kiss. She’s not mad, he asks. Hasn’t she ever heard a wolf whistle? Stating that, aye, she has, the redhead spins around. Now no longer a girl, she is a werewolf. Baring her fangs and claws and spitting saliva, she asks in a Scottish brogue, Have ye? As the two stare in disbelief, Rahne Sinclair aka Wolfsbane, asks the two of them to give her a kiss. Moments after the two turn tail and run, Rahne returns to her normal form and sighs. Americans.
Continuing on her way, Rahne approaches a lone, four-story building and enters it. Climbing up the stairs, she arrives on the floor in question and heads toward a nearby door. Calling out to Jamie, Rahne lets slip her Scottish brogue – temporarily eliminating her carefully crafted American accent, as a result of her annoyance at her situation. Having received no reply, Rahne comes upon the door, finding a hand-written sign taped to its window: XXX Investigators, followed by J. Madrox, Pres.. Not bothering to knock, Rahne twists the doorknob, announcing her entrance with the advice to Jamie that he might want to splurge on a professional stencil on the… Rahne’s words trail, as her view into the office reveals the collapsed and sweaty form of Jamie Madrox, his eyes rolled back into his head and drool dripping from his mouth.
Quickly bending to her former teammate and cradling his head, Rahne calls out to him, demanding to know who did this to him and swearing that they’ll pay for… Suddenly, Jamie regains consciousness and promptly thanks Rahne for coming; he knows how busy she is… teaching up at the school. Still concerned, Rahne asks Jamie if he’s all right. To this, Jamie smiles goofily, replying that he’s fine… feeling noooo pain… In a moment of clarity of the situation, Rahne rhetorically asks Jamie if he’s drunk. Jamie’s response – kinda, yeah – causes Rahne to drop his head, allowing it to violently impact on the unforgiving linoleum floor.
As is his lot – from his mutant power – the impact causes Jamie to spontaneously generate a duplicate of himself, exact in every form, including his clothes. In a way, he thinks, he is his own parade. His own best friend. And the only drunk who can legitimately see double. As the two Jamies begin to gather their senses, Rahne walks to the kitchen, taking off her coat, and announces that she’ll be making him some coffee. Upon her initial inspection of his kitchen, Rahne quantifies that she will, presuming that this swill counts as coffee. It looks like somethin’ the witches of Endor would’ve brewed, she opines – then suggests that they should scan it with Cerebra. Mutant lifeforms might be growing in it.
Still sitting on the floor, the Jamies begin to re-merge with each other, one pushing the other into his body – disappearing into him as if he were being immersed into a pool of water. Still sweating, the remaining Jamie asks Rahne to give him a break, okay? It’s not like he drank himself into a stupor. Did she smell any booze on him? Thinking about this, Rahne admits that she did not, now that he mentions it. Rising to his feet and pulling out a drawer from his desk, Jamie replies that, yeah, last night he waffled on staying in or going out, so he sent a dupe out to have a good time for him.
Taking this in, Rahne repeats last night, and asks if he was gone for… Twenty-four hours, Jamie replies. Yeah, apparently he had too good a time. Ripping open a moist towelette that he found in the desk, Jamie begins to wipe his forehead. Seeing this, Rahne tells Jamie that she thought he didn’t reabsorb damage that dupes sustained… Like elevated blood alcohol? he asks. No, but mental synapses, yes. And since the dupe’s brain was pickled, well…
How’s the coffee coming, he asks, changing the subject. Bringing to steaming cups to the couch upon which Jamie has collapsed, Rahne hands it to him, joking that she carved him a slice. Now changing the subject on her own, she asks him about the whole “detective” thing… why? And how’d he get a license? Answering the last question first, Jamie replies through an old FBI contact. As for the why… ‘cause, dumb as it sounds, he still wants to help people. Plus, he continues, with a wry y’know, he gets to meet gorgeous women.
Unconvinced, Rahne retorts that he’s been watching too many old movies. Plus, he knows bloody jack-all about detection. He… Rahne stops in surprise as Jamie sits up from the couch and grabs her chin by his right hand, examining her open mouth. Next, he grabs her ankle, lifting up her foot to examine the sole of her shoe, all despite her protestations. Reclining back, Jamie informs her that, on the way there, she stopped for a hot dog and relish at Nathan’s, gave a dollar to a homeless man, stopped by Midtown Comics to look at Muppet toys, stepped in a puddle at 32nd and 5th, and bought a copy of the Daily News but wound up giving it to another homeless man.
As Rahne takes this in, Jamie smiles inwardly, noting that his “Sherlock Holmes” riff should impress her. Finally managing to speak, Rahne stammers in question, H-How did he…? Sipping his coffee in satisfaction, Jamie merely replies that it’s a trade secret. Yep, he thinks to himself. Worked like a charm.
With the opening of the door once again, a new voice makes his presence known, with a simple “I’m back.” Turning to view the new arrival, Rahne is once again taken aback, as Jamie stands there. Unlike the Jamie Madrox still sitting on the couch, this Jamie is dressed in a monk’s robe, his head clean-shaven and a simple walking stick in his hand. Seeing that his “Kwai Chang” dupe has made his triumphant return, Jamie notes that he’s a week ahead of schedule.
Approaching the still-astonished Rahne, the monk Madrox addresses her, telling her that it has been several years. Receiving a startled it has?, Monk Madrox tells Rahne that she has grown into a fine young woman. Is she assisting with the office? Still startled but able to speak more coherently, Rahne replies just part-time, just to help… set up.
Deftly taking the mug from her hand, Jamie informs Rahne that there’s a bar downstairs across the street, called the Power Plant. Guido, he tells her, should be in about this time. He’d love to see her. When Rahne begins to protest, Jamie walks her to the door, telling her that he’ll be right down after he’s reabsorbed the dupe. As the monk Madrox bows in respect, telling Rahne for peace to be with her, Rahne tells Jamie that this is weird – doesn’t he see that? Closing the door in front of her, Jamie pretends to think aloud for a moment, before finally settling on the decision that it is not. Nope, no, not seeing that.
As the door comes to a close, Jamie recalls to himself that there’s a reason they’re called “private eyes.” It’s because they always keep aspects of themselves private; locked away so that no one… even their most trusted friends… can ever fully know them. Either that or no one wants to be seen in public with them. Yeah, he decides – that’s it.
Upon entering the Power Plant, Rahne is immediately addressed as “jailbait.” Looking to the bartender, Rahne sees a grey-skinned woman, with green octopus-like tentacles coming from her back. When Rahne asks her if she meant her, the bartender confirms it, lamenting that the liquor authority doesn’t hassle her enough for being a mutant bat. Now she has to worry about underage booze hounds?
Telling “Lefty,” to ease up, a hulking figure with monstrous-sized hands states that he’ll vouch for her. Turning around, Rahne finds herself engulfed in the gigantic arms of Guido Carosella. Hearing her call him by his former yet humorous nom de guerre of Strong Guy, Guido winces. Make one joke at a press conference, he states, and you’re stuck with a name for life. Now calling out to Lefty, Guido orders a scotch and soda to his regular table. Same for the lady, he the adds, ‘cept hold the scotch.
A few steps later, the two make themselves comfortable at Guido’s special table – built on two scales. One side is regular in size, for the average-sized person, while the other side is constructed on a larger scale, conforming to his Brobdingnagian form. Craning her neck to look at Guido, Rahne asks him how things are going with Lila. She heard he and she were an item… Shrugging this off, Guido replies simply an “eh,” adding that he doesn’t like to talk about it. Surprised, Rahne asks “really,” stating that the word was the two of them were… Cutting Rahne off, Guido snarls his lip, repeating slowly and vehemently that he doesn’t. like. t’talk about it. Okay?
Getting the point, Rahne quickly asks if they can talk about Jamie. Hearing this, Guido’s stern countenance instantly transforms into a broad grin. Replying that, sure, him he’ll talk about, Guido states that he’s his best friend in the world. Well… he thinks to add, ‘sides himself. Frowning at this, Rahne looks downwards, replying that that’s her point. First he quit his job at X-Corp in Paris. Paris! Who’d want t’leave Paris? In response to this, Guido replies that, nowadays?, who wouldn’t? Ignoring this, Rahne adds that now he’s so… distracted. Distant.
Still smiles, Guido tells Rahne that she’s gotta keep something in mind. Jamie’s raised “keeping to himself” to an art form. His parents kept him isolated on a small farm, wearing a special control suit so he wouldn’t keep churnin’ out duplicates every time he hit something, or something hit him. Then, they died in an accident, and the kid was stuck on his own for months, ‘fore anybody found out. That’s gotta screw you up a bit. Plus, Guido continues, she knows about the dupes he’s been sending around, right?
Seeing that she doesn’t Guido tells Rahne that the detective thing’s a recent development. Before that, Jamie couldn’t decide what direction to go in his life, so he went in all directions at once. He’s been sending dupes the past few years to learn about various stuff. Then they come back and he reabsorbs them… and gains their knowledge. Thing is, he flakes out anywhere from a minute to an hour while his brain processes it. He saw it once, Guido states. It’s terrifying but fascinating…
Guido’s explanation draws to a close as he sees someone entering the bar. Recognizing him instantly, but detecting something amiss, Guido belts out an inquisitive Madrox? Stumbling to Guido’s table, a sweating and bleeding Jamie Madrox states, through barely coherent words, that he couldn’t make it… upstairs… to office… Though Guido still doesn’t know what is wrong, Rahne knows immediately, telling Guido that she smells blood on him. A lot! His own blood. Stepping forward, Rahne manages to catch the collapsing Jamie. Finally able to examine him more closely, Rahne tells Guido that there’s blood everywhere… she thinks he’s been stabbed.
Cradled by her, Jamie tries to sort things out through his delirious mind, asking Rahne what she’s doing there. At first, Rahne is confused, as he told her to wait there, until she realizes it’s a dupe. Understanding that as well, Guido runs to the street, stating that he’s on it. Rahne’s statement to go get the real Jamie, draws panicked ire from Guido, who repeats loudly that he’s on it! Approaching the door, he calls back to Rahne, telling her to cover her ears. Just as she begins to ask why, Guido stands at the door, his hands funneling his booming voice in a cupping motion, and yells out into the night sky toward Jamie’s building: Maaaadrooooox!!
Quickly making his way across the street and to the bar, Jamie thinks to himself that Guido sounded freaked… and he can’t even think about what could possibly freak Guido. Arriving at the door, Jamie finds himself pushed in by the massive Guido, to his dying duplicate inside. Finally seeing the reason why Guido was freaked, he decides that he doesn’t want to think about it any more.
Sitting next to the unconscious form of the duplicate, Rahne calls out to Jamie, telling him to hurry, and to reabsorb him. Hearing a stammering reply that he can’t, Rahne replies that she doesn’t understand. Likewise in the dark, Guido points out that the dupe is unconscious… it’s the only way. Hearing the real Madrox reply that he doesn’t care, Guido points out that if he dies without him taking his memories… “Still not caring!!!” Jamie retorts.
As the moments pass, Jamie tries to assess the situation. How can he explain to them that it’s happened to him before? A dupe, right on the edge… and he takes him… It’s like dying himself. Like… his soul’s being torn in half. He doesn’t absorb the wound… but the trauma of what he feels… felt… it’s… He just can’t.
Lost in thought, Jamie is returned to the present by Rahne’s pleas. He’s been stabbed, she tells him. A killer’s out there! If he doesn’t stop him…! His arms wide in feigned helplessness, Jamie asks if he does stop him - so what? Another’ll take his place! There’s always more killers, he states. That’s what humans do! Produce killers in endless supply. Fine, Rahne spits back. He can explain that to the families of his future victims.
Finding Rahne’s words biting, Jamie thinks that he hates that she’s right. He also hates that there’s another likelihood she hasn’t even considered: that this wasn’t a random assault. That someone’s targeted him, and they hit a dupe now. but next time… they might get him. Reaching down, Jamie places his forefinger to his duplicate, which begins to shimmer as it is reabsorbed.
A pain shoots/shot through Jamie. A scream cries/cried out. Drops of blood splatter/splattered. An elevated train speeds/sped. A picture of a brunette smiles/smiled up from a newspaper, dated March 24th. A skyscraper rises/rose into the air. A knife, bloodied.
Jamie smiles, dressed only in his trousers, and laughs at the night air, rain pouring down on him and the rock upon which he stands. He’s… alone. Truly alone. Just him… and God… and inner peace. No infinite number of dupes knocking around inside him, waiting their turn. Just a man… And his dog, he adds, as a collie begins to lick him. Okay. A dog. Dogs are good. Looking away, almost at someone else, the collie states that he’s coming around.
Jamie Madrox rubs his eyes. It’s no longer a dog hovering over him, but Rahne, a wet washcloth in hand. Taking stock of his new reality, as well as the one he just left, Jamie asks a flabbergasted Rahne if she was just licking his face just now. Replying defensively that she was not, she presents the washcloth. Right, fine, whatever, Jamie replies, managing to sit up on his couch. It figures, he thinks to himself. Bogart has Mary Astor. Russell Crowe has Kim Basinger. He has Lassie.
Sitting on the other end of the couch and reading newspaper, Guido welcomes Jamie back to the land of the living. When the befuddled Jamie asks how long he was out, Guido answers seventeen years. The U.S., he informs Jamie, was bought by the Swiss. The national bird is now the cuckoo, but the chocolate’s better. Now turning the Rahne, Jamie asks the same questions, this time receiving the more believable answer of twenty minutes – though it felt like seventeen years.
Helping Jamie to his feet, Rahne asks if he sees anything. The killer? No to either, Jamie replies. The dupe didn’t see his face, or it was so traumatic that he blocked it out. Taking a moment to lift his nose out of the paper, Guido asks nonchalantly if it was a random killing. Placing his jacket on, Jamie replies that he’s thinking not. His guess is that someone targeted him. The dupe’s thoughts were screwed-up… but they were also focused… on Chicago, he thinks. He saw the Sears Tower… and the El. And some woman. Of course, Guido confirms, there’s always a woman. Hearing this, Rahne congratulates Jamie. He got his wish. She hopes she’s gorgeous enough t’die for. Me too, he replies.
Rising from the couch, Guido asks Jamie what their next move is. There’s no “our,” Jamie replies. He’s doing this on his own. He takes being murdered pretty personally. With this, Jamie hits his fist against the wall, creating a duplicate. Addressing the dupe, as well as Rahne and Guido, Jamie tells them to stay there. He expects the attacker’ll be looking to make sure he finished the job… or even kill every Jamie Madrox there is. Hearing this, the newly created dupe realizes he’s bait – oh, joy.
Pausing at the door before leaving, Jamie turns back to Rahne and states that she never said – what does she think of the company name? Replying bluntly, Rahne states that it sounded like he investigates pornography. Closing the door to XXX Investigations behind him, Jamie thinks to himself that he can live with that.