On a street of Los Angeles, a woman waves down the approaching police cars, yelling to them that she’s the one who called them. As the officers exit their vehicles, the woman gesticulates toward a nearby playground, exclaiming that they were going to fight in the basketball court. “Gangs?” the officer asks. Yes! the man exclaims. And then he heard screaming. They were screaming! It was like something was killing them!
Drawing their weapons, the officers instruct the woman to stay back and enter the playground, only to be shocked by the sight within: over a dozen gang members lying motionless on the basketball court. One of the officers immediately notices a rope burn on the neck of Black and surmises to might be a lynching, the result of a hate crime. However, another officer notices the same marks on a Latino. How big a mob would it have taken to hang all these gangbangers? And where the hell is the rope?
Some distance away, out of the sight of the police, a large, hooded man drags an extremely large noose.
Standing in the shambles which was once his old farm house, Madrox notes to himself that he hadn’t been there in years… and now he’s been there twice in as many months. The first time he had a nice chat with one Sally Monroe and her son, Terry, who were living there. The second time, he’s looking into her murder and his disappearance.
Looking at the ruins of the living room, Longshot notes that she put up one hell of a fight. She died valiantly, Shatterstar adds. To this, Layla remarks that she still died. The how doesn’t much matter so much. It always matters, Shatterstar opines.
Turning to Layla, Madrox asks if she has anything to add. Any insights she’d want to share, like where the boy went? To this, she replies that he really doesn’t need her insights, does she? A scared, missing boy? He’s been there and done that. At first, Madrox is confused but then realizes what she’s implying.
As they walk toward the barn, Madrox remembers him using it as a child. His family’s farm wound up spooking the locals for the longest time. It seemed to keep running, with the crops being attended to by what would have had to be various farm hands… but no one ever saw anybody. Nothing like being haunted to stop people from looking too closely, which enabled young Jamie Madrox to work the farm with his dupes at night… while hiding out in the family bomb shelter all day.
As he lifts the hatch leading to the shelter, Madrox instructs Layla and Shatterstar to stay behind, while Longshot’s to come down with him. In the shelter below, they immediately note signs of a struggle. Longshot asks Madrox if he thinks it’s related to “BB,” what the creature called itself in the morgue and was scrawled on the kitchen wall. Deigning not to guess, Madrox instructs Longshot to start poking around. Maybe he couldn’t get a read off Sally’s corpse, but something there might trigger it.
In the barn above, Shatterstar tentatively tells Layla that he was wondering… “Yes?” she asks. He was wondering if she ever thinks about their time in… Interrupting, Layla clarifies that, when she said yes, she wasn’t prompting him to continue. She was answering the question. Yes, she sometimes thinks about their time together in Latveria. To this, Shatterstar remarks that she said that what happened there… remained there. So she did, Layla replies.
Continuing, Shattertar asks if she ever thinks about changing her mind on that score. She thinks about it, Layla replies. Just like he thinks about that maybe, now that he has his powers back Rictor won’t need him as much. Or maybe at all. But she tries not to let what she thinks prompt her into unwise actions. He might want to do the same. Good thinking, Shatterstar replies. Glad she could help, Layla replies back.
Back in the shelter, Longshot tries reading a sneaker and reports that he’s getting the same thing off it as everything else: a big, fat nothing. It’s starting to crimp his faith in his luck powers. When Madrox then rejoins that none of them have faith in his luck powers, Longshot replies that he thinks they both need to have some faith in trusting his power. Closing his eyes and stretching out his arms, he explains that he’s allowing them to guide him to what they need in order to… With that, Longshot falls face forward. At first, Madrox mocks how his experiment worked out for him, only for Longshot to produce something he found: a SAG card.
Back at X-Factor HQ, Pip the Troll is asked what’s “SAG” is, to which he replies it’s what your breasts do when ya walk around with the front of yer costume unzipped. This obviously an insult directed at her, Monet throws a boot at Pip, trashing a computer monitor and almost hitting Madrox in the process. It would’ve served him right, she rejoins to Madrox. He brought the little pervert there. “Sag” indeed. Outrageous, Shatterstar affirms. To him, they appear to defy gravity.
Ignoring the back-and-forth, Madrox explains that “SAG” is the Screen Actors Guild. The card belongs to Jason Roland, who, guess from the surname, is Terry’s father. A souvenir, maybe. Rictor is trying to run down more on him with the web. In the meantime, they’ll see if Pip’s cosmic mojo fires up where Longshot’s stalled out.
Elsewhere, in the building, Theresa finds Rictor sitting in front of the HQ’s computer system, scanning the readouts from four different monitors. Asked how’s it going, Rictor replies that he’s not sure why this is still his job, frankly, now that he has his powers back. To this, Theresa replies that his powers aren’t the sum of who he is. He’s still the best one around there with computers. He knows, Rictor rejoins. But just looking at it reminds him of when he couldn’t do anything else.
Does looking at Shatterstar give him the same feeling? Theresa then asks. Asked what she means by that, Theresa explains that it’s just that the two of them haven’t been spending much time together lately, so she was wondering… Yeah, well stop wondering, Rictor interrupts. Thus chastised, Theresa turns to depart, noting that Rictor was less of a jerk without his powers. Rictor begins to quip that that means a lot from the person who broke Madrox’s finger, but stops in mid-thought as his eyes go wide at what he’s found on the monitor before him.
In short order, Rictor is in Madrox’s office, showing him two photos. The one on the left is of a Caucasian man, whom he introduces as Jason Roland: a two-bit actor whose major claim to fame was a monster flick called “The Demon that Devoured Hollywood.” But then, somehow, he fell in with some mystical heavy hitters – Satannish, Mephisto, that bunch. Next thing you know, he’s a soul-grabber going by the name of the “Hangman,” referring to the photo on the right of a hooded man.
Examining the photos, Madrox asks if he wants to know how he found out all of this, Hacked into the Avengers mainframe, Rictor replies. He may be getting a call from a pretty pissed of Tony Stark. Yeah, Madrox replies, he didn’t think he wanted to know.
Returning to the issue, Rictor explains that he also turned up divorce papers between him and one Sally Roland. Sued for adultery, Madrox reads. Nice guy. He then reads the name of “Stella Houston” as being named as the other woman and suggests that they talk to her, to which Rictor replies that he’ll need a Ouija board. She’s long dead. Madrox then asks if she was murdered, which Rictor confirms. Seems to be an occupational hazard for Roland’s loved ones, Madrox notes.
At that moment, they are joined by Pip, who states that he’s got ‘im. Asked if he’s sure, a starry-eyed Pip confirms. He’s locked in on him. Fourth Street Bridge in Los Angeles. And… he’s really pissed. Before Madrox can even suggest it, Rictor is pulling up the visuals so they can get Shatterstar locked in. Which team members is he bringing? According to the records, Madrox replies, this guy’s fought Wonder Man to a standstill. As far as he’s concerned… this is gonna be all hands on deck.
A short time later, a gigantic SHOOM and a blinding flash heralds the aperture of Shatterstar’s portal, through which the entire team of X-Factor walk onto Los Angeles’ Fourth Street Bridge. Addressing his team, Madrox informs them of their working assumption: Hangman’s wife and he split and she was pregnant. Once she had the kid, she went underground. Hangman eventually caught wind and hunted them down, snuffed her, grabbed him. When Longshot then questions who possessed her corpse, and who “BB” is, Madrox guesses he must have a partner or an ally. So they have to be ready for anything.
Since they have a lot of ground to cover, Madrox then orders Monet, Theresa and Longshot as part of group one. Shatterstar, Layla and Rictor will be group two. Guido and Rahne are with him. Everyone’s to stay in touch on the comm. channel. As the three groups split up, Guido mutters that this is a great idea. ‘Cause splitting up always ends well.
As the three of them search, Madrox asks both if they’re okay. Asked what he means, Madrox points out that Guido kind of died and Rahne went through hell with that demon baby birth of hers. He just wants to make sure that… Interrupting, Rahne replies that, right now, all she cares about if the hunt. If she keeps sittin’ around all mis’rable, she’ll just wanna kill herself, whether damnation awaits her soul or not. “I hear that,” Guido agrees.
Elsewhere, Longshot and Theresa are wading through water, while Monet walks atop it ahead of them. When Theresa comments on it, Monet asks if she has something to say. The offer made, Theresa asks why she didn’t tell her she was a Muslim, to which she is asked what difference does it make. None, she guess, Theresa replies, but it just… it makes it seem like she was hiding it. She doesn’t think about it much, Monet explains. That way lies endless theological soul searching whenever things go wrong. “Why did God do this?” “Am I a bad person, that I brought this on myself?” “What does it all mean?” “I don’t want to be…”
“Like Theresa?” Longshot interrupts. Taken aback, Monet denies it but Theresa only scowls. If she weren’t, maybe she should’ve been. Now on the defensive, Monet tries to explain but now Theresa replies that they need to stay focused.
Meanwhile, Rictor leads his group, hoping aloud that they find him first. He’s itching to cut loose. There’s so much he wants to do… Interrupting, Shatterstar tells Rictor that finally he understands. Seeing which Rictor does not understand, Shatterstar elaborates that he was feeling a while back, about wanting to try things… “cut loose,” as it were. Understanding the meaning but not quite accepting it, Rictor asks Shatterstar if he’s comparing his getting his powers back with him wanting to sleep around with him as his guide.
Told that there are similarities, Rictor begins to argue but instead raises his arms in surrender. Okay, fine, he says. He gives up. He wants to experiment? Let’s see how far they get with that. Hey, Layla, he says, turning to her, wanna party down with Shatterstar and him? Sure, she rejoins with a grin. Sounds like fun. At first misunderstanding her reply, Rictor finds himself dumbstruck by Layla’s offer. As he stops dead in his tracks, Layla and Shatterstar continue, their arms wrapped around each other. Noting that she bets he makes the earth move, Shatterstar replies that she has no idea.
Elsewhere, Madrox calls the other teams on the comm. and asks for a report. Monet reports first, stating that Theresa’s angry with her and she wants to kill Longshot. Rictor is next, reporting that he thinks Star’s trying to use Layla to get back at him for something. Yeah, Madrox replies to each, that’s real constructive. Would they please concentrate on what’s…
Madrox’s words halt mid-sentence when a noose drops around his head and pulls him up by the neck. Luckily, Madrox managed to get his hands under the noose just in time, buying him precious seconds. Thinking quickly, he hands his heels together, creating a dupe beneath him, which provides support. Nearby, Rahne transforms into Wolfsbane and leaps toward his direction. By the time she arrives, a crowd of dupes have been created beneath Madrox as a human pyramid. Using this as a foundation, Wolfsbane ascends the top.
At the base, Guido calls up, telling them to let him know if there’s anything he can do. The only answer Guido received, however, comes not from above but from behind. Well, for starters… he can die. Before Guido can react the Hangman backhands him, knocking off of his feet. Luckily, he recovers quickly and lands a right cross, followed by a left hook, to the Hangman, knocking him off his own feet. Sorry, Guido replies. He already died once this year and he never does the same trick twice!
Up above, having reached the noose, Wolfsbane apologizes that she cannot bite through the rope, which seems to be unbreakable.
Down below, Guido matches his strength against that of the Hangman. Telling the “blork” that he’s just getting warmed up, Guido calls him by his name of Jason and asks why doesn’t he just give up? To this, the Hangman uses leverage to flip Guido onto his back. As he does so, he replies that there is no “Jason” anymore. Doesn’t he get it? There’s only the Hangman now! Jason’s dead! Hearing this, Guido retorts that Jason’s as dead as his wife, huh? And did he kill is son too? Suddenly, the Hangman’s eyes widen. She… she’s dead? Sally’s… dead?
Up above, the noose around Madrox’s neck suddenly goes limp and, a few moments later, he is back on the ground, being attended to by Rahne. Madrox dismisses Rahne’s concerns and asks where the Hangman is. A short distance away, the Hangman has removed his hood and is muttering. He… he swore he wouldn’t hurt them… He swore… He should have known he was lying… Oh, God… Poor Sally. Asked by Guido who “he” is, the Hangman replies Bloodbath. And, if he doesn’t do what Bloodbath says… he’s going to kill them all.