As he is held up against a brick wall, one clawed hand around his neck while the other slashes two lacerations across his cheek, Jamie Madrox laments that he could have had everybody in his crew backing him up… but he told them “Nah. Don’t worry. I don’t need the whole team. Take the day off.” It seemed so straightforward, so open and shut. Now the only thing that may wind up open and shut is the lid on his coffin.
Madrox stands in the living room of Adina Malcolm’s home – or more correctly her soon-to-be-former home. Gesturing to the nearly empty room, save for a couch, a coffee table and a stack of moving boxes, Adina asks Madrox to look at this. She’s giving Adina until tomorrow to move out! And no one is doing anything about it! When Madrox then points out to her that, technically, it is her house, Adina directs her annoyance to him, asking if he’s taking her side. To this, Madrox counters that it’s his job to take Adina’s side.
Seemingly not satisfied, Adina tells Madrox that this is why she was hoping Monet would be handling this personally. She wants someone who’s taking her side because they believe a great injustice is happening. Not because they’re being paid for it. Now growing annoyed himself, Madrox replies that Monet’s in Beverly Hills at the moment. Then asked what she’s doing there, Madrox quips that she’s “buying it.”
Before Madrox can continue, he is surprised by the voice of Layla, who is standing in the doorway. Layla introduces herself to Adina and expresses her condolences on the loss of her father. As Madrox tries to figure out why Layla’s even there, Adina accepts the condolence and sits down on some boxes, the new exchange seeming to have taken the fire out of the previous exchange. She then asks Layla if she is in charge of X-Factor Investigation, which Layla confirms, once again surprising Madrox. Continuing, Layla assures Adina that she will receive X-Factor’s full support.
Layla then states that Adina hasn’t been sleeping well, has she. Adina confirms, noting that it’s obvious, huh? She’s been having nightmares, keeping her awake. Guess a detective just knows stuff. Letting the phrase pass, Layla asks Adina why does she think her stepmother killed her father. Aside from the whole “stepmothers are evil” trope.
Elsewhere, Madrox rides in the back of a limousine carrying Adina’s stepmother. She’s always hated her, she says of Adina. That’s why. Adina thinks she only cared about her father for his money. With respect, Madrox rejoins, she is considerably younger than he was. When the woman counters that that’s hardly a crime, Madrox counters that murdering someone is.
Regarding Madrox with sorrowful eyes, the woman informs him that the police already ruled on who the murderer was: a vampire. During that entire business when those… those creatures were just everywhere. She checked up on him, she tells Madrox, and she assumes it’s that supernatural element that prompted Adina to seek out his services. Her husband, the woman continues, was a good man. She loved him dearly. But he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was no different than a random mugging... Except, Madrox interjects, for the fang marks and the blood being drained. Except for that, the woman admits.
Changing tact, Adina’s stepmother tells Madrox that she’s tried to consider Adina’s feelings. She even moved to the Plaza Hotel temporarily to give her some distance, but enough’s enough.
Back at the house, as she continues to tape up a box, Adina tells Madrox and Layla that her father brought mom and her there from Ethiopia when she was a child. He wanted to make a better life for them. Then, her mother died shortly after that when she was five. After that, her father worked hard, became successful… and then Carla came along. This “vampire attack”… it’s so appropriate, because she’s nothing but a bloodsucker. Continuing, Adina tells them that she confronted her, with her crocodile tears, at the funeral. She told her she was responsible somehow. It’s just… it’s too convenient.
To this, Layla asks if she means that they were married less than a year, then he dies and she inherits… “Everything!” Adina shouts. Except, Madrox chimes in, she’s letting Adina keep the condo on the west side. Visibly angry, Adina turns to Layla and instructs her to explain to him that… Jumping to the end of Adina’s request, Layla tells Madrox that “letting” her keep something that should rightfully have been hers is insulting. Exactly, Adina punctuates.
In the limo, Carla tells Madrox that, in exchange for her talking to him so freely, she’d appreciate if he would do her a favor in response. Told if he can, Carla tells Madrox that she knows Adina sees her as an outsider. Someone who didn’t share her and her father’s roots. And there’s some truth to that. But she’s not the enemy. She has no reason to resent her… and she thinks, deep down, Adina understands that. Would he tell Adina all that for her? When Madrox replies if she’ll listen, Carla presses. Make her listen.
At that moment, the limousine has arrived at Madrox’s destination and he gets out. A moment after that, Madrox looks up to find the other Madrox and Layla descending from the entrance to the house in question. Just having finished their own conversation with Adina, Madrox asks Madrox how’d it go. About as well as could be expected, though he’ll know all about it once he absorbs him.
Considering this reply, Madrox is relieved that he finally has a dupe who’s relatively normal. Nice change of pace… Almost in defiance to Madrox’s thoughts, the dupe grabs Layla in his arms and dips her, playfully. Calling her a ravishing thing, he tells her he can’t keep his hands off her. That’s understandable, she replies. “Marry me,” he asks her, to which a broadly smiling Layla replies “okey-doke.”
Having had enough, Madrox begins to absorb the dupe, who nonchalantly instructs her to register them at the M&M Store – and to call him! With the dupe gone, Madrox offers his hand to Layla, who fell to the sidewalk as a result of the dupe’s absorption. He apologizes, to which Layla points out that he could have timed it a bit better. Unless, of course, she wonders aloud, he meant to time it that way. When he asks if she means having her be dropped on her butt, Layla refers to the romantic proposal. Immediately, Madrox points out that it wasn’t a real proposal, that he was out of his mind, literally. Undeterred, Layla grins that his dupes all represent pieces of his personality. Which means it was on his mind. Considering the thought further, Layla asks Madrox if it would be gauche for her to ask Terry to be her maid of honor. Layla leaves the exasperated Madrox with this thought as she skips down the sidewalk, singing “IIII’m getting marrrried…”
Layla continues talking about being his fiancée all of the way to the morgue, much to the annoyance of Madrox, who can’t decide whether she means it or not. There, the coroner explains to Madrox that it was definitely a vampire attack. Fang marks, blood drained… Addressing the coroner by his given name of Artie, Madrox asks if he was sure. What else? Artie rejoins. No saliva around the punctures. Then asked about dead tissue, Artie admits to Madrox that there was none, which is admittedly strange. You’d think there’d be some under the vic’s fingernails or something.
Adding her own thoughts, Layla deduces that this would seem to argue against there being any humans involved. When Madrox notes that this brings them back to a random vampire attack, Layla counters with a “maybe.” Repeatedly pressed for an elaboration, Layla offers on “uh-huh” and “yup.” Exasperated, Madrox tells Layla that she’s killing him. Well, she replies in between draws on her lollipop, they’re in the right place for it.
Back on the street, Madrox can’t help but silently admit to himself that Layla’s starting to get to him. When she was a child and was enigmatic, it was cute. But now she’s all grown up… and the charm is fading. Oblivious to his thoughts, Layla suggests that the best bet is probably going back to Adina’s, getting something her father had on him when he died and then having Longshot get a reading of…
Madrox interrupts, telling Layla to stop it. Just tell him how it ends. When Layla reacts with confusion, Madrox presses. She knows what the deal with Malcolm, doesn’t she? Hell, she probably knows about this whole conversation. Layla continues to try to defend herself, but Madrox is relentless, telling her that he feels like he’s being jerked around. When he grabs her by the wrist, Layla exclaims that he’s hurting her. To this, Madrox asks how many people is she hurting, playing games instead of just being straight with them? Playing games is fine when you’re a kid, but she’s not a kid any more, and playtime’s over.
A beat officer witnessing the exchange interrupts the two and asks Layla if there’s a problem. This man bothering you? With a grin, Layla replies that there’s no problem. She kind of likes it when her fiancée gets a little rough. Waving his hand, the officer turns to leave, muttering a “whatever lady.”
Rather than acting conciliatory, Madrox defiantly ask Layla if he has to thank her for that. No, she replies, her demeanor changing to a more somber tone. He doesn’t have to. But, if she tells him everything she knows… then he would have to do certain things and there goes free will. Doesn’t he get that? Almost not waiting for a reply, Layla answers that no, of course he doesn’t. When she tells him to come on, Madrox asks where they are going. On stakeout, she replies. It’s what detectives do.
That night, Madrox and Layla sit in a car, parked outside Adina’s home. From the driver’s seat, Madrox asks Layla, who sits in the back, if he should ask why they’re spying on their client. Told that she would rather he didn’t, Madrox notes that it’s hard to believe that she keeps him in the dark half the time just because of some philosophical point. Everything people do is philosophical points, Layla replies, whether they admit it or not. He used to trust her, she then adds. Now he sounds like Monet and Rictor. Glancing back, Madrox asks if she can blame him. She hung out with Doctor Doom, for God’s sake. Why? Glancing away, Layla replies that he has knowledge about mysticism that she’s going to need. When Madrox quips that he’s surprised that she doesn’t know it already, Layla states that she didn’t, but she’s going to.
Madrox takes a moment to process this statement but eventually gives up. Returning to his binoculars, he tells her that even when she answers him, he has no idea what she’s talking about. Madrox tries his best to change the subject, noting that for someone who was having trouble sleeping, Adina’s sleeping pretty soundly now. Ignoring this, Layla returns the conversation to the dupe of Madrox that proposed to her. She knows it wasn’t real, she tells him. It’s just… when he did… it was the first time in over a year that she was… happy.
Shocked at the statement, Madrox glances back to her for a moment, then turns back forward and lowers his eyes. He tries to search for the words to reply, but Layla interrupts him, telling him to “look.” Madrox interprets this to refer to the dupe’s proposition but Layla interrupts him again, telling him to look through the binoculars. Does she need to sing it for him? A moment later, Madrox’s eyes go wide as he spies some sort of fog… but more substantial… hovering over her. No… coming out of her… A curse then involuntarily crosses Madrox’s lips as the fog coalesces onto Adina, transforming her into a vampire-like creature.
Continuing to reel at the sight before him, watching Adina make her way to the roof, Madrox does not register Layla’s repeatedly heated order for him to start the car. Eventually, she succeeds by both calling him “honey” and grabbing him by the ear. Keeping their eyes on the phantom Adina as she leaps from rooftop to rooftop, Madrox drives as fast as he can. Fortunately, it’s three in the morning and the streets are relatively empty. However, Madrox can’t understand how this is possible. He had seen Adina in the daylight. How could she be a vampire? As always, however, Madrox finds Layla has the answer.
When people come from other countries, Layla explains, they bring more than their language and their history. Their darkest beliefs and myths come along for the ride. Seeing that Madrox does not follow, Layla continues that Adina’s from Ethiopia. Her dreams were haunted. Her father died of a vampire bite. It’s a vandella. “The girl that sang with Martha…” Madrox asks. Calling him a dummy, Layla explains that it’s a North African dream stalker; a vampiric, demon spirit, like a succubus. It’s possessing Adina and Layla bets she has no idea wht’s going on. As long as the vandella is at the helm and Adina stays asleep… she’s basically unkillable.
From a deep sleep, Carla is awakened by a spectral voice stating that she should have killed her first. Who’s there, Carla exclaims, jumping to full alertness. Hovering a short distance above her bed, Carla sees the phantom Adina, speaking in an inhuman voice. She was so angry at him for betraying everything, the phantom explains. Their roots, their dreams… and her dreaming mind cried out to her in the night. How could she not answer the call? When Carla then exclaims “My God,” the vandella corrects: no, her god. But Carla will be with her soon enough! Before the vandella can strike, however, Madrox breaks into the room, firing to pistols at it. “Back to hell, lady!” he yells. She may be foggy, but parts of her are solid enough.
The force of the shots’ impacts knocks the vandella back and through the window. Watching the defenestration from the street below, Madrox prime is glad that he can stake out more than one place at a time. The moment they started trailing Adina Harkness up there, he called the dupe that he had watching Carla and told him to get his butt up to the room. He’s got a slightly “Dirty Harry” edge to him, so he was the right dupe for the job. Back in the room, still reeling from the shock of what just happened, Carla asks the dupe is that was the thing that killed her husband. Affirming it, the dupe adds that it was a shapeshifter, not Adina at all. Just trying to confuse her.
Though shot and having fallen to the street, floors below, the vandella is none the worse and has already recovered from both. However, waiting for her is Madrox, armed with a cross and a stake. When investigating vampires, he notes to himself, you keep both in the trunk of your car. He hopes both are enough to keep the vandella buttoned up until daylight, or until Layla, who is still in the car, is able to call the rest of the team, waking them up and telling them to get over there.
Unfortunately for Madrox, the vandella easily knocks the cross out of Madrox’s hand, mockingly asking is she looks like someone who is threatened y the Christian God? Idiot, she exclaims, punctuating it with a slap across Madrox’s face. Pressing the advantage, the vandella holds Madrox against the wall, one clawed hand around his neck while the other slashes two lacerations across his cheek. Though the pain, Madrox quips that he understands that she has some serious daddy issues… To this, the vandella snarls that her father insulted the memory of her mother! He insulted the memory of who they are! She wanted him to pay, and she helped…
Defiant, Madrox counters that Adina loved him! She didn’t want him to die, much less… have any hand in it! This is all about you, Madrox tells the vandella, calling her a parasite. She just… exists to kill… and look for ways to do it…! She didn’t help her! She preyed on her! And now, the vandella replies, displaying her fangs, she will prey on him.
It is at this moment that Madrox hears the words. As the vandella steps back away from him, seeming to reel in pain, Madrox spies Layla a short distance away, extending her gauntlet-clad arms toward the phantom Adina. Layla is muttering things Madrox doesn’t understand. Some sort of… incantation. She’s not throwing bolts of mystic energy around like Doctor Strange, he notes, but whatever she’s saying… it appears to be working. Madrox watches as the vandella writhes in agony and begins to expand, leaving the human form within. Madrox can barely make it out, but he sees a glimpse of the creature in its purest form, something only hinted at when it was possessing Adina. A moment later, the air erupts in a noiseless explosion. Heat washes over him and chills him at the same time. Then, it is over and only Adina is left.
As Madrox cradles the unconscious Adina, Layla informs him that she’ll be all right. Replacing the glove over her gauntlet, she adds that she won’t remember any of it, which is probably best. She had to wait for it to manifest and then be close enough for it to hear the exorcism. Asked by an incredulous Madrox that she exorcised Adina, Layla confirms… for good. With any luck, Doom taught her how. One of those things she knew she’d need to know. She figured why wake up the team when she had it in hand? This said, Layla announces that she thinks she’ll walk home, if that’s okay with Madrox. Seems a nice night for it.
Back on his feet and cradling the still-unconscious Adina, Madrox calls out to Layla. “Wanna get married?” He knows it is a totally impulsive question from the guy who has trouble deciding. He doesn’t know what… possessed him. The question hangs in the air for a moment as Layla pauses and glances back. Clearly amused by the question, she replies that she doesn’t know. Ask her later. Incredulous, Madrox calls out again to Layla, who has continued her walk. She doesn’t know? How can she not know? “Because,” she replies. “I’m Layla Miller. And I don’t know stuff.”