Somewhere in Metro City, an old woman sat with her legs tightly crossed and the soles of her bare feet turned upward. A bowl of incense burned in front of her and a circle of chalk was drawn around her.
Her skin was the color of burnt clay, with wrinkles that ran so deep they looked as if they had been carved in; her hair was like steel wool with long trails of ink black weaving their way through it. Time had worn down her face, turning her chin into a bulbous knob and her pierced nose into a battered lump. She only wore a loose cyan-blue nightgown and a red bindi on her forehead.
When the phone rang, she opened her left eye. She gestured with her hand, coaxing the receiver from its resting spot and bringing it to her ear.
"Talk," she said.
"Hello, Witch," Sumerset said.
"It's Wytch," she corrected him. "With a Y. And yes, I can tell the fucking difference."
"Got a situation down here. Need your help."
"I'm far too old and far too busy, Sumerset. I'm trying to track down someone dear to me. Deal with it yourself."
"Got a level 2 mystic threat on my hands, along with a host of Lurklings--"
"Deal with it," she said, and she made a move to send the phone back.
"--and Daysdale's daughter is mixed up in it."
She shifted her fingers. The phone halted, quivered, and slid back to her ear. "...Daysdale? Susan Daysdale?"
"As in, the daughter of Donnie Daysdale?"
"His granddaughter," he said. "She's the new--"
"I saw it on the news," she said, and her wrinkled face cracked into a grin. "Heard she came out as a woman. I approve."
"And what's that supposed to mean?"
Sumerset sighed on the other end. "Look, sorry. I ain't calling you to start an argument, Wytch. I need your help. She needs your help. Can you do this? For her sake? For Donnie's sake?"
"Fine. But let's make this quick. I've got more searching to do--and Judge Judy starts in an hour."
Somewhere else in Metro City, a member of a very exclusive club argued on his cellphone with a dinosaur's agent.
The man was smartly dressed in a long gray wool coat and a trilby hat; tufts of black hair popped out from either side, curving up. He had the look of a man who perpetually occupied his 40s regardless of how old or young he was--forever trapped in the awkward phase of his life where he was too old to be hip and too young to be wise.
As he spoke on the phone, his frustration began to mount.
"Yes, I understand that he's a dinosaur as well as a detective," he said. "But I remain unconvinced that he is a good detective. Yes, I've seen the bloody deerstalker cap he has! That doesn't mean--look--agh!"
He slammed the phone down on the table. It snapped beneath his hand, shattering into several of its component parts.
"Figures," he said as he turned away.
At which point he heard the ringing.
"Eh?" He turned back to the phone's remains, peering at it with puzzlement. After a few moments of stunned silence, he realized it wasn't that phone that was ringing--no, it was the other one. The special one.
The one he hadn't used for over two decades.
He stared at his gloved hand, dumbstruck. The ringing continued--emerging from his palm.
He plucked off the tip of his index finger, exposing the antennae. He then lifted his gloved hand up to his head, moving the pinkie in front of his mouth and his thumb up to his ear. The circuitry hummed to life as he heard a click on the other line.
"Evening, Detective Widget."
"Who the blazes is this? How did you get this line?" the detective asked. "This is a private number--"
"Relax. It's Sumerset."
"...Sumerset? I haven't heard from you for--God, it feels like a century. Not since that whole 1984 business."
"Forget that. I need your help. You still work for the Mystery Club?"
"Oh, yeah. I got a doozie to tell you--we just got this application for someone who wanted to join. Some weirdo named 'Detective Dino'--"
"Save it. Donnie Daysdale's kid is in trouble. I need you. If you work for the Mystery Club, that means you can get to Metro City fast, right?"
"Yeah. I'm there right now, actually."
"How fast can you make it to the Stix?"
The detective grinned. "How fast do you want me?"
"Immediately. Keep the old com channel open. I'll contact you with details soon."
This sounded like it would be interesting. The detective turned and stepped outside to the balcony.
His coat promptly inflated.
Somewhere within northern India, one monk greeted another.
They spoke in hushed tones as they stepped past the high mud brick walls that surrounded the monastery--moving beyond the temples and buildings built from fading clay.
As they walked, the older addressed the younger in their native tongue:
"The rules are simple," he explained. "Clean the entryway to the cavern once a day. Ensure that the candles around it remain lit. Replace and restock any candles that have burned out. But most important of all..."
Brash and eager, the younger monk spoke out of turn: "Is it true? Is she here?"
The older monk gave his ward a glare, but it was soon followed by a knowing smile. "You wish to see her, of course. Perhaps it is for the best--your curiosity should be quenched immediately, so it will not grow. Come."
They plunged deeper into the monastery. Past the recent walls and the newer additions--deeper still, until they reached a stairway that cleaved its way through the mountain and weaved upward. As they ascended, the architecture grew strange--the lights grew dim. A cold draft wafted down from above.
The younger monk shivered.
"We must speak no louder than a whisper here," the older said, his voice low. "Lest the sounds of our words carry to her."
"Must she remain in complete silence?" the younger asked.
"It was her request, over two decades ago, that nothing be allowed to disturb her during her meditation," he said. "And so we have seen to it--and in exchange, her presence here has protected us."
They stepped past the stairs, through an archway. Before them was an immense stone cavern--lit only by a single candle in the far distance. Dimly, the monks could make out what looked like a figure, crouched in silence.
"Who, after all, would dare set foot in the monastery where the legendary Jin meditates upon the true nature of justice?" he whispered.
It was at that precise moment that a single glaring sound cut through the silence. Both monks instantly stiffened, their eyes widening with fear. The sound was distinct and undeniable--that of a telephone ringing.
For the first time in over two decades, the distant figure rose to her feet. Both monks watched with wordless awe as she reached into her pocket and pulled out what looked like a primitive communicator.
"Speak," she said.
Neither of the monks could hear what was said. But shortly thereafter, Jin began to walk forward--approaching them both.
She was as magnificent as she was terrible; she towered above them both in robes of red and gold. Her hair was a tangled nest of ink-black that fell well past her spine--her face fierce and beautiful.
When she spoke, her voice was like a blade: "I am leaving to repay a debt."
The older monk was given an awful fright. "Bu--but--Mistress!"
She walked forward, toward the stairways. As she moved, the younger monk spoke up.
Without turning, she paused.
The younger monk gathered what was left of his courage and spoke: "You must understand... the world is different, now. Much has changed since you were gone."
She looked back at him with a gaze that would cow a mad elephant. "Is there still injustice?"
"Ah... well, yes--"
"Then nothing has changed," she said, and she turned back to the stairs. "Fetch me my sword."