The city at dark. A dirigible flies over the cityscape. Near a bridge leading to the abandoned Welfare Pen, one detective, Peter Magnus, demands a mint from the other, Fred Dukes. No, Dukes tells him. This his first murder, right? he adds. So? Peter asks as the two detectives join the uniformed colleagues at the Welfare Pen. He still wants a mint. Trust him, Dukes assures him.
The waiting cops ask if the Chief give Dukes another rookie to ruin. Pretty soon, a whole generation of detectives are all gonna be walking funny. You’re a funny guy, Kelly, Dukes replies. Kelly’s wife tells him so practically every night.
That the mermaid? he asks, referring to a mutilated corpse of a redheaded woman. Couple a white shirts running down a stray schizo found her round ten, Kelly replies. The loony bin is the only welfare left on Welfare Island once they shut down the old penitentiary here.
His dad made his shield on the Welfare Pen raid, Dukes tells the rookie Peter who stares at the corpse mesmerized. Did he know that? Course not, Dukes continues. He barely got three years in. He’s not even technically alive.
Dukes asks the others to flip the corpse over. They gasp at the grisly sight and Peter vomits. As he gets up again, Dukes hands him a mint. See, he tells him, he would have just wasted it. See, as this is Peter’s maiden voyage and all, he tells the sharp-faced, white-haired young man, he should do the honors.
Straightening himself, Peter begins his report: Victim is Caucasian, female, red hair, early twenties. Bloating suggests extended submersion. Extensive slash marks along upper torso… in groups of three. Same pattern on the face, but… worse. Deeper. I.D. won’t be easy. Nose missing. Eyes missing. Upper lip… missing.
That him? a uniformed cop asks Dukes, referring to Peter, the track star? Their very own crown prince, live and in the flesh, Dukes replies. He’s sorry, the rookie remarks, looking up, but is anyone actually going to write this down? What? Dukes asks. He means all that stuff he’s been saying? Why should he?
With the tip of his shoe he points to an X-shaped tattoo at the woman’s hip and remarks that this tells him all he needs to know. He’s going to have the rook type up and file his report, but they already know what it says. The X-Men? one of the others asks. He’s afraid that this heinous crime appears to be yet another addition to their long list of evil deeds, Dukes agrees. Yeah somebody might actually want to think of catching them or something, Kelly remarks sourly. He’ll let him know how that goes, won’t he? Dukes replies with an evil grin.
As they ride up the elevator, Dukes tells Peter that, back when he was young and stupid like him, they didn’t have this elevator to take them from the middle of the bridge down to the island. Transferring a boatload of bums from the Tombs to the Welfare Pen in the middle of January… boy, the wind off that river would cut right through you.
The younger man interrupts him. What are “X-Men?” Oh, so he didn’t get his college degree in everything? Dukes retorts. Fred, the other man begins. All right, all right, he amends. Her ink means she did time at this reform school in Westchester, run by a real head case, Xavier. Screwy shrink was actually teaching the juvies how to be better criminals instead of reforming them.
What? Peter asks. Yeah, Albany wasn’t too crazy about it either, Dukes continues, but they didn’t find about it till one of the students did a really bad impression of a birdie off a roof. Now Xavier’s in Riker’s until the D.A. can figure out what the hell to charge him with. And the X-Men? In the wind. Freelance operators, pulling jobs all over town. Any one of them got a sheet longer than some twice their age. The skirt was their grifter – name of Jean Grey. No point wasting taxpayer money figuring out which of her gangland boyfriends finally got bored with her.
But… Peter begins to protest. Fred interrupts him. He is Peter’s partner, so let him look out for him. Jean Grey ain’t the kind a citizen Peter’s father would want them expending limited departmental resources on. The chief’s a big fan of… what do you call it… eugenics. He takes any classes on that in Princeton? A few, Peter replies hesitatingly and Fred explains that eugenics say your criminal element, it’s all, you know, hereditary… bad “racial hygiene” and all that. And there’s nothing you or he or any cop can do except contain it. Keep it away from them regular Joes. It’s like that old saying, “You can’t fight city hall?” Well. That’s a crock, especially in this town. No, the one thing you really can’t fight is nature. And there’s no point to really even try.
Peter looks up and above them in the shadows of the bridge’s girders he might see a moving shadow…
Dirigibles fly above the city at night and music is played at the Creole Club as the singer croons a love song.
Have I ever heard of Jean Grey? the Club’s owner Remy LeBeau asks in reply to the question of a well-dressed young man with a moustache, one Thomas Halloway. Viens ici mec, he asks him, let him show Tommy something. He shows him a picture of Grey hanging in the office with the note “do not give chips to this girl.” He wants all his people to know this putain, LeBeau exclaims. He catches her three times in his place, each time running a different scam. It’s like she can control men’s minds, for true. Got her claws into one of his croupiers. Had this couyon running a slug. Tommy know what a slug is?
Thomas Halloway’s mind races back to when he was a boy. Jail. One of the inmates, Orville, “the Gentleman” Whitwell. Telling him sweetest blackjack grift is the slug. But the dealer’s got to be in on it, see? You bribe the guy to lead his shoe with cards in a specific order, so you know just what’s coming, see?
Sure, Halloway replies tight-lipped he knows the slug. Go play! Remy remarks admiringly. What doesn’t Tommy know? Where Grey’s partners are, comes the reply. These “X-Men.” And Remy knows everyone. Ahh, not the X-Men, Remy admits. Much as he’d like to. He’s still out eight large thanks to them. He’d like his man Bishop to show them some gratitude. They take Tommy for along walk off a short pier, too? No, Remy knows him, he replies as he turns his head and leaves. Just looking for the next big thrill. Oh, to be young, rich and bored, Remy laughs and waves him goodbye. Bon soir.
Outside, he sees a beautiful brunette, dressed in red, standing next to a car. Suddenly, he shouts a warning as a man is about to hit her with a wrench. He steps between the woman and her would-be-attacker, who warns him off. Tommy quickly disarms him and presses him against the car. It’s Remy’s guard, Bishop. Sorry, Tommy apologizes, but a black belt holds up these fancy pants.
Isn’t Bishop Remy’s muscles? the brunette asks. That he is, Tommy agrees. She wouldn’t happen to be in arrears to Harlem’s favorite Cajun, would she? She lost count after she passed ten large, she replies nonchalantly. And he still lets her in? he asks. There are advantages to being the chief of detectives’ daughter, comes the reply. Not if that’s how M. LeBeau feels forced to collect, Tommy points out. The woman, Wanda Magnus, takes his arm and offers to buy him a drink.
Tommy introduces himself as Thomas Halloway, a reporter of the Daily Bugle. He thanks the prisoner, Charles Xavier politely for taking the time to speak with him. He somehow managed to clear a spot in his schedule, comes the wry reply. Is that the Bugle he’s reading? Xavier asks, referring to the pulp magazine Tommy is holding. It’s certainly changed since the laws time he saw it. This? No, Tommy replies and shows him the Science Fiction magazine. On the cover is a blond SF hero, the hero of the story “the Sentinels” by Bolivar Trask.
Is Xavier familiar with the work of Mr. Trask? Tommy asks He is quite a visionary. An anthropologist before turning author. Mr. Trask suggests a future in which some humans have evolved fantastic powers and patrol the skies, protecting the rights of the “norms” who worship and love them.
How… imaginative, Xavier remarks, rifling through the mag. He hears Xavier knows from imaginative, Tommy points out. Who told him that? Xavier asks mildly.
Tommy begins to quote from an article:
The mutual cooperation derived from mankind’s sociability allowed humanity to quit the forests and veldts for concrete jungles of its own construction.
But after tens of thousands of years, this man-made eco-system has produced a more perfect predator, with skills expertly adapted to thrive within that system.
Indistinguishable from the dominant species, unencumbered by the constraints of sociability, uniquely endowed to manipulate members of society by preying upon their outmoded empathy… this is the sociopath.
That we have characterized sociopathy as “mental illness” until now is hardly surprising. No doubt the Neanderthal saw the prominent chin and sharply rising forehead of Cro-Magnon man as some kind of physical deformity as well.
My aim here is to demonstrate that, far from suffering from any “personality disorder” the sociopath, on the contrary represents the next step in human behavioral evolution.
Conclusions and recommendations on the diagnosis and treatment of adolescent sociopaths by Charles Xavier, Ph.D.
Heady stuff, Tommy concludes. The American Psychiatric Association certainly thought so, Xavier agrees. They expelled him after he wrote it. They also refused to publish it in their journal. How did he get his hands on it? he is multi-talented Tommy replies tight-lipped.
He’s sure, Xavier agrees. What kind of article did he say he was writing again? He didn’t, Tommy replies. It’s on one of his former students, Jean Grey. She was found murdered recently. He heard. Most tragic, Xavier replies. The police seem to think one of Xavier’s “X-Men” did it. They must have their reasons, Xavier replies non-commitally. They are the police, after all.
He imagines it must be rather flattering to have his students name themselves after him, Tommy begins another tack. He must be quite the teachers. He is the only person who understood them, Xavier replies. Who even tried to understand them. The only way he could get them to open up to him was allow them to be what they truly are. And are they killers? Tommy asks. Are they capable of killing one of their own? And does he know where he might be able to find them?
Visiting hours are over, the warden suddenly announces. But the clock says… Tommy begins to protest. The professor has special hours, comes the reply.
They shake hands as Xavier wishes him luck. He can’t imagine an article on his former students will win him many prizes. Why his clearly intense interest? A young woman was gutted and washed up on Welfare Island, Tommy replies. No friends. No family. And the cops treat her like something they have to scrape off their shoes. He doesn’t care who she was or what she’s done… he can’t live in a world that lets that happen. Ah, a crusader, Xavier remarks. He should watch himself if he finds his X-Men then. They eat people like him for breakfast. He reminds him to take his pulp magazine with him and hands it over.
Outside, Tommy looks at it. Xavier has scribbled Find Marie Rankin on it.
Fred Dukes, in the meantime, has taken his rookie partner Peter Magnus to Fagan’s. Is this his first beer at a cop bar, Your highness? Annoyed, Peter reminds him just because it is first day in homicide doesn’t make him twelve years old. So he says, Duke laughs. And they have forty minutes left on their shift, Peter points out as they walk inside. Fred chooses to ignore him and is happily greeted by the other patrons. Pay this riffraff no mind, your highness, he tells Peter. Tonight they are tipping back with the king.
He leads Peter down the stairs. Peter hears someone in agony moaning: Stop… Listen… I already said “yes,” for God’s sake. The voice comes from a man tied to a chair. He’s surrounded by three men standing. The one talking to him is a white-haired man in a purple suit whom Peter knows only to well. That’s his problem right there, isn’t it Blackie? the man states. God’s standing right in front of him. And he doesn’t give a &%%$. He hits the prisoner in the face.
The man who led Fred and Peter down explains that Master Cassidy of the Bronx is a guest of the Chief tonight. God ol’ Blackie, Fred laughs. King of the Leprechauns. One last time, so it sticks, the Chief continues. Move your numbers and your dope out of Norwood. On to Tremont. The people of Norwood are good respectable people. While Tremont sits in the path of twenty city bulldozers. No one cares if it’s infested with rats in its twilight years. If he has to tell him again, he will send Blackie to Irish Hell. He won’t like Irish Hell. There’s no whiskey, and all the women hit back..
Hey chief, Fred announces and points at Peter; look what the cat dragged in. He’s waited for this a long time, Peter’s father, the chief commissioner, tells him. Peter’s finally ready to learn how they contain crime in this town. Laws only work on law-abiding people. For the criminal element, there is the Brotherhood. And he can’t tell him how important it is to him to finally welcome his own son as a member.
Horrified, Peter runs up the stairs. Maybe he should just let him run, Fred suggests. Maybe running is all he is good for. Magnus tells him to shut the &%$ up. Yes, Sir, comes the muted reply.
Tom aka the Angel quietly breaks into the former Xavier’s school. He recalls how back in jail inmate Horace “Harlem Houdini” Hobbs taught him about lockpicking. Ain’t no two locks the same, Hobbs told him. When you got your pick all up in there, feeling for the pin, you gotta be real sensitive like… like you’re with your lady, and you’re using your tongue on her… He apologizes for the inappropriate remark, as Tommy is a little too young for that.
Tommy carefully picks the lock and enters the office where he takes out the file of Anne Marie Rankin. He is impressed by the picture. He steps outside, into the hallway. One of the doors bears the inscription “Danger - Training in progress.”
He enters a training room which includes among other things a training gym and a shooting range.
Suddenly, a monkeylike man attacks him from above, though Tommy manages to evade him. A young man grabs him from behind and holds a blade to his throat. Now now, ladies Tom remarks, let’s not get their panties in a twist. He’s the Angel. And he’s on their side.
He gets rid of the young man with a judo throw and shouts he’s trying to find out who killed Jean when the first man jumps at his back.
A third man with red glasses points a gun at him. Hasn’t he heard? They are the X-Men. Nobody’s on their side.