Mariah Dillard (née Stokes) was a powerful woman working in Harlem politics, looking to bring a new era of change to the streets that she had grown up. Dillard's own personal life and professional career were thrown into turmoil by Luke Cage, and her cousin, Cottonmouth's ongoing nefarious acts. As her political career began to fall apart around her, Dillard had reached her breaking point and murdered her cousin, forcing her into working with Shades to protect herself, as she slowly became indoctrinated to her cousin's criminal empire, as she worked with Diamondback to try and finally kill Cage, while all her efforts were challenged by Misty Knight who attempted to bring her to justice. Dillard was spared jail, as she ordered the murder of the only witness Candace Miller, and also defeated Diamondback, accepting her role as Harlem's new crime lord.
Dillard's plans on retirement from the criminal underworld and building a relationship with her daughter, Tilda Johnson, were challenged; however, by Bushmaster's arrival, as he sought a violent revenge on the Stokes family for Mama Mabel's crimes against his family, years earlier. As her world fell apart, Dillard sought the help of Luke Cage to keep her alive, while furiously striking against Bushmaster. After almost getting burned alive by Bushmaster, Dillard accepted that she was a Stokes and a criminal, and embracing her birth surname, massacred several innocent people connected with Bushmaster, causing Shades to betray her. Due to Shades' statements, Dillard was arrested and sent off to Ryker's Island, where she was poisoned by her daughter. Before her death, Dillard gave Harlem's Paradise to Cage, intending to turn him into Harlem's new crime kingpin.
Life with Mama Mabel
- "She left you, and there you were, wrapped in a blanket in a basket. Mama Mabel put you in my hands that very day. You had always thought I called you Mo for Cottonmouth. Mo was for Moses. I wasn't ready to be nobody's mama, neither. I did try to protect you from all the shit."
- ―Mariah Dillard to Cornell Stokes[src]
Mariah Stokes was born in Harlem, where she was raised by the Stokes family under the leadership of Mama Mabel. When another relation left the baby Cornell Stokes onto the Stokes' doorstep, Mariah was given the responsibilities of raising him. Mabel often told her about her grandfather Buggy Stokes who built their family empire with Quincy McIver. While she was at school, Mariah had begun a childhood romance with Tom Ridenhour, as they would hold hands in a class. While they were twelve years old, Mariah met and befriended Raymond Jones, as they had remained close friends for many years.
Trip to Jamaica
In the wake of the deaths of Buggy Stokes and Quincy McIver, the Stokes Crime Family entered a tense situation with the McIver family. During the negotiations for the criminal entire that Buggy and McIver had built, the Stokes traveled to Jamaica to meet with the remaining McIvers. Mariah Stokes joined her family on this trip, as she and the other younger Stokes relaxed during the negotiations, as Mariah had sunbathed while she read The Bluest Eye. While she was reading her book, Mariah became annoyed once Cornell Stokes began splashing her with water, trying to get her to come into the pool with him.
As she explored the residence, Mariah had found John McIver spying on a meeting between the Stokes and Gwen McIver, as they were all negotiating for control of the Buggy and Quincy's criminal empire, as it included Harlem's Paradise and the Bushmaster Rum. Interrupting him, Mariah had then ordered John to get her something to drink, as she threatened to tell those adults that he had been spying on them. While John went to get her something to drink, Mariah had looked at Mama Mabel and Pistol Pete, who were currently laughing in Gwen's face about all her demands, which they had refused to accept.
During her time in the household of the Stokes Crime Family, Mariah had witnessed Mama Mabel selling weapons and running prostitution rings; however, Mabel had always pushed Mariah to focus on her education, as she did not want her to follow in the family's footsteps, and instead make an honest name for herself. Being constantly bullied in school, Mariah developed an affection towards Pistol Pete who comforted her, however, Pete would sneak in Mariah's room and sexually abuse her, claiming that they were simply playing a game. Mabel had Mariah to attend various schools, to protect her from Pete's abuse.
While Mariah was studying and Cornell was playing on the piano one day, Mariah and Pete recommended to Mabel that Stokes be sent to a posh school to continue his music. They then witnessed Pop arrive with Donnie, only for Pop to be immediately sent away, and Mabel to confront Donnie for selling drugs on the streets of Harlem, which she did not allow. When Donnie had then attempted to defend his actions by claiming that selling drugs was their way for make money, Mabel responded by cutting off his fingers while sending Mariah upstairs to continue her studying and not witness what would happen next.
Executing Pistol Pete
From her window, Mariah heard Mama Mabel forcing Cottonmouth to shoot Pistol Pete for betraying the family, which he refused at first, as he had never killed anybody before this moment. As Pete desperately attempted to convince Cottonmouth to not kill him by reminding him of their history, and Mama Mabel also kept forcing and encouraging him to shoot Pete, Mariah decided to watch her sexual abuser's demise for herself, as she discreetly watched from the window waiting to see Pete's death.
When Cottonmouth was unable to shoot him, Mariah walked outside and told Cottonmouth that Pistol Pete deserved to die for everything that he had done to their Stokes Crime Family, as well as the abuse that she also suffered at his hands, although Pete just attempted to dismiss his abuse of her by claiming that it was just a game. Finally, Cottonmouth then shot Pete twice in the chest, killing him while this was watched on by Mariah. With Pete dead, Mama Mabel had then taken back the Stokes' Revolver, while Mariah calmly returned to her room, satisfied that her sexual abuser had finally been executed.
Leaving her Daughter
- "I never tossed you away. I remember that day. And every minute in it. Twenty-two hours of hard labor. Your ass almost killed me. But that wasn't the tough part. The toughest part was holding the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen, but just for a moment. I barely had time to fall in love with you before Mama Mabel snatched you away."
- ―Mariah Dillard to Tilda Johnson[src]
In the wake of Pistol Pete's execution, Stokes then realized that she was pregnant with Pete's child, as Stokes immediately wanted to have an abortion, which Mama Mabel had refused to allow. In order to disguise where her child had come from, Stokes married Jackson Dillard, a gay man who Mariah had met while they were both attending Howard University, as he had been willing to marry her in order to cover his own homosexuality from his disapproving family, who were willing to overlook their prejudices about their son marrying a black woman if they could pretend that he was straight. Despite her husband's homosexuality, Mariah still loved him.
However, when Jackson traveled to Nicaragua to provide medical aid, he was shot and killed by Contras, which devastated Mariah. Mariah had eventually given birth to a girl named Tilda, and nearly died during childbirth, only for the newborn baby to get snatched away by Mabel almost immediately, as Tilda was then sent off to be raised by Mamie Johnson, while Mariah continued with her education. However, when Mabel had a stroke and began to lose control, Dillard reconnected with her daughter. Once Dillard and her daughter reconnected, Johnson came into the Stokes' house and connected with Cornell Stokes through their love of music. However, Mariah was estranged from her daughter, as she always reminded her of what Pete did to her.
Dillard eventually became involved in politics was nominated to represent Harlem on their council, intending to move away from what Mama Mabel had built wit their family. Eventually, Mabel died as a result of her multiple strokes, resulting in Cottonmouth becoming the head of the Stokes Crime Family, while Dillard focused on her political career, using funding from Cottonmouth's criminal activities, which she still disapproved of. When Raymond Jones had begun to make a name for himself on Wall Street, Dillard stepped in to support her childhood friend, providing him with clients and connections, which had allowed Jones to amass his considerable fortune.
Deal with Domingo Colon
- "You two shouldn't even be seen together let alone having me all up in the Kool-Aid."
"But you're here anyway. Something must be right about it, otherwise, you wouldn't have fronted me if you didn't agree."
"I have no illusions about our family's legacy. But you are now turning legitimate money illegal all over again."
- ―Mariah Dillard and Cottonmouth[src]
While visiting Harlem's Paradise to meet Cornell Stokes, Dillard had listened to Raphael Saadiq. Dillard and Stokes then discussed all of the improvements to the Paradise since Mama Mabel's death, with Dillard noting how proud she had been of her cousin. He reminded her of Colon's Gym's donation to him and her real-estate project, which disgusted her that he would make any deal with a drug lord and told Stokes that politics was the only true form of power. However, Stokes still reminded her that whenever it was not politics, it was his method of crime that kept her work stable.
The pair were then joined by Domingo Colon, and Dillard questioned why he was there. Stokes explained his deal should have happened while Pistol Pete was alive. Colon asked if they made this deal, then Dillard would get him out from jail, much to her disagreement, noting what had happened to Wilson Fisk. Stokes remained confident as he reminded her that, if she disagreed with his methods, she would not front him for all the money. He then described to Dillard and Colon of the Hammer Industries weapons that Diamondback gave him. Dillard, however, disagreed that their deals could not be as easy as that.
As their group ran out of bottles of champagne, Luke Cage was sent up with some extra bottles of the Ace of Spades for their table, along with Candace Miller. Once Cage brought the bottles, Stokes stopped him and took notice of Cage's large size, with Dillard also mockingly taking notice of his suit size, which was far too small for him. Stokes then offered Cage a new job, working as a bodyguard, but Cage had declined the offer. Later, Stokes would get the news of an inside job which had interrupted their deal, involving Dante Chapman, Shameek Smith, and Chico Diaz, keeping the information secret from Dillard.
New Harlem Renaissance
While holding her benefit for the New Harlem Renaissance campaign, where she greeted all those children attending, Dillard caught sight of Zip and Sugar watching her closely, much to her annoyance. During an interview with Megan McLaren, she explained her purpose for the Crispus Attucks Complex and her vision for a better Harlem. During the interview, Cornell Stokes had also arrived and waited for her with Shades and Tone.
With the interview done, Dillard had told Stokes she wanted his thugs away from her. Telling her assistant, Tony, to leave, Dillard demanded the money from Stokes, stating that federal grants were used to build Harlem's Paradise and the deal with Domingo Colon that went south. Stokes promised the money and Dillard warned him that if she does not get the money, she would face an audit and they will both go into jail. Dillard asked what happened in the junkyard, but Stokes did not answer, reminding Dillard that she either got all the details of his work or none of them, so Dillard had then simply walked away from him.
Dillard then decided it was best to leave Cottonmouth to use his own methods to locate their stolen money from Chico Diaz and Shameek Smith, while she was also turning a blind eye to whatever he did to achieve that goal as long as her reputation remained clean, and she could continue her own work without running her political campaign into legal trouble. Later that night, Dillard had continued making the pamphlets for the New Harlem Renaissance campaign, focusing on that work, rather than how she was using the money gained from the all of these illegal dealings with Domingo Colon and her cousin.
Receiving Half of the Money
While working at the Crispus Attucks Complex, Dillard was visited by Cornell Stokes, who had his man Tone deliver half of the money that had been stolen by Shameek Smith. She states that it was not nearly enough, reminding him that the donation money helped to re-open Harlem's Paradise and now that he made his weapon deal with Domingo Colon, that could expose the both of them and wind up in jail. When Stokes stated that she was not his boss, Dillard told him to fix the problem or risk losing the club and possibly going into jail.
Having paused to mock Shades, Dillard was told by Stokes to focus on the political side of things and to let him focus on his job, to which she responds is to uncomplicate her life. Stokes said her job was to turn his water into wine as he reminded her of Mama Mabel's quote "Family First", to which she agreed. As she said she would return to Harlem's Paradise; Stokes noted she did not like being seen around him, but she claimed that this was simply because of the music and she would be on him until she got the rest of the money. Stokes then gave Dillard his word that the situation would soon be resolved.
That same evening, Dillard had joined Cornell Stokes inside Harlem's Paradise, listening to the music and also commenting on how one of the guests had tried to seduce her by sending Candace Miller with a drink. They were interrupted when Luke Cage showed up to set up a parlay for Chico Diaz, assuring that they will get the other half of the money and Diaz would leave New York City. Stokes refused, Cage gave him a picture of him with Pop and Fredo Diaz, urging him to remember his own past. Stokes agreed to the parlay and fired Cage, to which he claimed he could not be fired as he had already quit.
Dillard let Stokes and Tone have their conversation concerning Diaz, with Tone wanting to go to Pop's Barber Shop and assassinate him, but Stokes refused and sent him away. Once they were alone, Dillard told Stokes that he is wasting his talents as this gangster. However, Stokes was quick to justify his actions, stating that the good life was worth it, saying that "black money" was remembered just as much like the "black martyr." Dillard asked Stokes if he was sick of being called a criminal, stating that respect is more wealthy than money. However, Stokes retorted by saying money earned respect. When she asked at what cost, Stokes responded that she would see soon enough.
Receiving the Other Half
Eventually, Tone came back with the other half of the cash that Chico stole. This prompted Cottonmouth to have them meet him upstairs. Dillard decided to come, as well, to make sure the plan falls through. They met on the rooftop where they found out through Tone and Shades that they received the money by having a shootout at Pop's Barber Shop; However, that also meant that they murdered Pop. This angered Cottonmouth and he was further annoyed as Turk Barrett, the one who gave up Diaz, came up asking to be paid his money.
Much to Dillard's disapproval, Cottonmouth grabbed Tone in a fit of rage over his friend's untimely death and threw him over the building, killing him instantly when he landed onto a parked car. Cottonmouth grabbed the bag of money and handed it to Dillard, as she had made it clear that she disapproved of that murder, however, Cottonmouth simply reminded her that the money is still green, which she agreed with. She took the money and left, leaving Shades and Cottonmouth to clean up the mess. Later, Dillard took their money back to Crispus Attucks Complex, unaware that Luke Cage was watching them.
In the wake of their stash houses being raided, Cornell Stokes had Dillard's office at Crispus Attucks Complex reinforced, much to her disapproval, as she questioned if it was the best plan to keep all of his money in one building. Stokes remained confident in his decision as the Complex was perfectly protected and, although Dillard insisted that Complex should be used to used the projects, Stokes laughed and told her it had always been a criminal front, with Dillard calling Stokes an asset to her work who was often a liability.
As Stokes then continued to mock Dillard for her denial about being involved in the criminal underworld, Dillard insisted that her work is not criminal and was for the greater good of their city which she truly cared about, as she pointed out the work Mama Mabel had done for Harlem before her death, despite having to blackmail several people. She, then, made sure that the Crispus Attucks Complex would only be the temporary bank for Stokes, but it would still help keep Harlem black. Stokes responded that she should keep focusing on the black and he would still focus on bringing in all of the green for them.
Later that evening, Dillard was given the news that her own office at Crispus Attucks Complex had been broken into and the money was exposed to the police. Dillard gave the news to Cornell Stokes and was met with rage. Dillard tried to calm him down, reassuring him that he could make more money, but she will be the one who has to answer all the questions. Stokes scolded her by calling her Black Mariah, which was met with her throwing a glass right at him and threatened to cut him if he ever dared to call her that name again.
Their argument was interrupted by Zip, who came to let Stokes know that a detective was here, much to Dillard's displeasure at the idea of the New York City Police Department being there. However, they had been met by Rafael Scarfe, who turned out to be on Stokes' payrolls. Scarfe then confirmed that Chico Diaz has been killed, by his hands, and he knew the identity of that assailant, infiltrating all Stokes' stash houses: Luke Cage. Being given the address, Stokes decided to take care of Cage himself. Witnessing this, Dillard had responded that she wanted to be spared details, as long as the job was finally done.
Threatened by Cage
- "Does the n***a have gills?"
"Drown him. Can he burn? Can you poison him? What about a woman? You know he got one with his fine ass. You find his weakness and you squeeze."
"You soundin' a lot like Mama Mabel. Don't worry about Cage, his days are numbered. I got something for him, that's my word."
- ―Mariah Dillard and Cottonmouth[src]
While Dillard was giving an interview about her campaign and talked about her own plans for the future of Harlem, she was interrupted by the arrival of Luke Cage. Once the film crew had gone, Cage mocked her segment once she was done before he informed her that once he had shut down Cottonmouth's operation, she would be his next target. Dillard asked if it was a threat, but Cage told her that it was not as he left. As Cage left, the news crew went inside to get footage for her, forcing Dillard to act as though nothing had happened.
Dillard returned to Harlem's Paradise where she met up with Stokes and was furious to learn that he had shot Rafael Scarfe during their dispute, resulting in Scarfe surviving and going on the run. Stokes insisted it was because Scarfe had blackmailed him and promised that he would be returning the missing guns to Domingo Colon that night, although Dillard remained highly nervous about the situation. Dillard reminded Stokes that if Scarfe had survived the shooting, he would go straight to the New York City Police Department and then expose their entire operation and have them both sent to prison.
Believing it was time for him to have a new change of career, Dillard demanded that Stokes sold the nightclub and to forget his criminal activities, noting how people got behind him during his speech at Pop's funeral. However, Stokes refused, stating that he would find a way to keep going. Dillard, then, asked about what to do with Cage, but Stokes told her he was bulletproof. Dillard, then, suggested they try drowning or burning him or to find out who he cares about and put them in harm's way as a bribe at which point Stokes compared her methods to Mama Mabel's, which Dillard did not deny.
An Interview Gone Wrong
- "Despite all of these unwarranted attacks on my character, I have always tried to make clear what I want which I can't say for you, Thembi. It's now very clear what you and the rest of your media friends want. You want a story, not the news, not the truth. Just a story that you will do anything to sell."
- ―Mariah Dillard to Thembi Wallace[src]
Later, Dillard started drinking tea in front of a mirror, preparing for her big interview about her political campaigns and hopes for the future, until she accidentally knocked over a photograph of Mama Mabel. As she looked down at the woman who had influenced her in so many ways, Dillard shouted at the picture, telling it to shut up, terrified of becoming like her through corruption. Bringing back her composure, Dillard continued to look in the mirror and apply makeup.
Their crew finally landed in Dillard's Brownstone, as Alex Wesley was instructed to keep her house proper for everyone else. Then, Dillard's interviewer, Thembi Wallace, came down to ask about the topics she will be discussing. When Dillard suggested about Harlem and all her upcoming plans to rebuild it, Wallace stated that it was boring as that had already been discussed and she should do something more fun, noting how Barack Obama had sung Al Green's song in an interview. Dillard felt insulted by these ideas, and instead mocked all Wallace's suggestions, as she had then left to prepare for their interview.
Wallace started by letting their viewers know that the interview was live and that they can submit questions for Dillard. Dillard was then complimented on her home, to which she stated is a part of Harlem's legacy where the campaign money would be going towards keeping it preserved. Wallace then shifted the focus onto Damon Boone, but Dillard insulted him and stated that his recent comments about her voting record and campaign donations were simply not true and her career was completely legitimate. As the interview continued, Dillard was shown footage of her previous interviews, which pleased her as she claimed that she did not only represent Harlem but that she was Harlem, although Wallace had looked less than convinced by this.
However, Wallace had begun questioning Dillard about which side of Harlem she truly represented, their historic, hardworking, and hopeful Harlem, which Dillard had often talked about, or their corrupt Harlem. Wallace noted Dillard's connections with her criminal family, after the footage was done, and showed footage of a picture of Mama Mabel with Pistol Pete and a crime scene at Crispus Attucks Complex, that held vast sums of money and had criminals suspected of working for her. Wallace then pointed out the facts that Dillard had grown up with the young Cottonmouth who had still inspired fear across Harlem.
Dillard claimed that Wallace had no right to show her personal family photographs, but Wallace continued her attack by asking why it had not been reported on the news that the thugs guarding her office had been attacked by a hooded vigilante before the New York City Police Department had found millions of dollars hidden away there. Dillard initially froze at being asked all their incriminating questions until she, enraged, furiously blamed Wallace for attempting to tarnish her good image. She then halted the interview and had demanded Wallace and her entire television crew then get out of her home immediately.
As the crew had begun to clean more of their equipment, Wallace got information on Cottonmouth's sudden arrest by Misty Knight, for the murder of Rafael Scarfe as well as all police corruption and extortion. Dillard was approached by Wallace, again, who had tried questioning Dillard about it. In a panic attack from all the questions, Dillard called out for her assistant for aid as Alex Wesley had quickly run out to her side and forced the whole crew out from her house, leaving Dillard to vent and curse out her frustration, as she began to fear that now their entire criminal operation was now about to fall apart around her.
The Final Straw
Damon Boone's Warning
The next day, Dillard invited Damon Boone to her house where they were surrounded by reporters asking for statements about what was happening with Cottonmouth's activities. Dillard assured their press that her cousin was not involved in any illegal activities, making light of the fact that not even the press seemed to know if he was a gun runner or drug dealer. When Dillard had been asked if she had been questioned by the New York City Police Department, she said she was loyal to her cousin and again insisted he was innocent, before Dillard and Boone then entered her Brownstone for their meeting.
Once inside, Boone questioned how much of the allegations against Cottonmouth were true, and judged by her silence that it was all of it. Boone called Dillard tainted and then tried to convince her to resign from her position so he could take the mantle as the key councilman in Harlem, promising to continue pushing her plans forward. Dillard reminded Boone of how he had been trying to retake her position for six years and he admitted he was waiting to see her fail. Dillard then refused Boone's proposition and instead furiously demanded that he leave her home immediately, which he had happily agreed to do.
Not long after Damon Boone had departed from her Brownstone, Dillard had requested that Alex Wesley bring her her scotch, but before he could get this, Shades made his presence known inside of her home. When Dillard demanded to know how Shades had gotten into her home, all he said was that he needed to talk with her alone. Shades had begun by asking Dillard if she remembered him when he was just a boy who also grew up in Harlem, but she claimed that she did not. Shades reminded Dillard of Mama Mabel's influence carried and how she had ensured that their family name had meant something within Harlem.
As Shades insulted her, noting Harlem's Paradise was not the symbol it once was, he pushed Dillard emotionally by telling her that she was now the washed-up politician whose entire career was falling apart all around her. Furious, Dillard went to slap Shades only for him to catch her arm and when she threatened him, he told her she had no power to shut him up. They discussed if Dillard enjoyed being so powerless, as she said she did not. Before he left her Brownstone, Shades had then attempted to encourage her, saying when she finally got up the nerve she would be surprised at what she was actually capable of.
Back in her office, Dillard got her call informing her that the decision had been made that, due to all the actions and subsequent arrest of Cottonmouth, their council would now be asking for her resignation, effective immediately, much to Dillard's horror. Hearing that an official announcement would be made the next day, Dillard told the woman that she would fight the decision before hanging up and throwing her glass across the room. Taking in a breath, Dillard contacted Tony and asked him to bring the car around so she could now go into Harlem's Paradise in order to then furiously confront her cousin personally.
- "My party chairwoman called me tonight to tell me I had to step down from the council. The fundraising for my complexes dried up since you got arrested. My reputation is in the shithole!"
"Maybe Madam Councilwoman need to step off her high horse and get her hands dirty."
"We family, Cornell. Mama Mabel taught us that."
- ―Mariah Dillard and Cottonmouth[src]
Arriving at Harlem's Paradise, Dillard found Cottonmouth playing his keyboard while alone in his office. Cottonmouth then commented on the pressure Dillard must be after in the wake of her disastrous interview with Thembi Wallace but Dillard insisted that he had to stop obsessing over Luke Cage and fix their businesses, before everything fell apart around them and they both ended up being arrested, but Cottonmouth had claimed he had already gotten Cage in his pocket, while Dillard had complained about how his actions had now seemingly destroyed her entire political career.
As Cottonmouth had then accused her of losing her way, Dillard had reminded him they were still family, but he just accused her of being favored by Mama Mabel, because she always provided for Dillard's education, while Stokes was taught to become a criminal, instead of improving all his music. Dillard, however, said she was only sent into a fancy bordering school to keep her away from Pistol Pete, who had been sexually abusing her throughout their childhoods. She accused him of being ungrateful for her taking care of him as a child as Stokes accused her of flirting with Pete and encouraging his advances.
Disgusted at such an accusation being made against her, regarding her abuse, Dillard, in her rage, hit Cottonmouth hard across the head with the champagne bottle, stunning him while she then slapped and pushed him, furious at getting accused of wanting that sexual abuse she had suffered as the child. Enraged, Dillard then pushed the crime boss out the window of his own club where he landed near the stage, dazed from that fall, and with his hands and body now cut to ribbons by all of the broken glass. Dillard then looked down upon her injured cousin and shouted in anger as she made her way to him, screaming that she did not want the abuse that Pistol Pete had done to her.
Still screaming that she did not want that abuse, Dillard out down to where the injured and utterly terrified Cottonmouth was desperately attempting to crawl away and screamed that he should have known she did not want any of this. Looking down at Cottonmouth, the man who had ruined her political career and caused so many problems in her life with his criminal actions, Dillard had proceeded to beat him to death with a microphone stand. With Cottonmouth unable to defend himself, Dillard then hit her cousin in the face and body until she had crushed his bones and left him as a bloody corpse on the stage.
With Cottonmouth now dead, Dillard had then looked down at what she had done in complete and utter horror, she was then discovered by Shades, who was impressed by her violent actions. Shades then commented that she had gotten up the nerve like he said she would back in her house, although she insisted that she never wanted this to happen. Shades, however, had told her that deep down this was what she wanted, telling her that the first kill was always the hardest one. As they talked about covering up their crime scene, they began to plan how to frame Luke Cage for Cottonmouth's brutal death.
While Dillard had considered what her next actions would have to be, she was rejoined by Shades who asked what she was thinking about. Dillard revealed that her mind was completely blank, but Shades just assured her it was okay as long as they focused on their cover story. Shades told her to shower and change into clothes Alex Wesley had brought in before they decided to recruit Candace Miller to also back up their story. With that now decided, Shades had asked if there was anything that they had missed, at which point Dillard revealed she hit Cottonmouth with the champagne bottle, which had not broken.
Having collected the bottle Cottonmouth had been hit with, Shades told her to get changed so Joel Spurlock could destroy the clothes she was currently wearing, ensuring that there was no more possible evidence of her ever being in Cottonmouth's office that night. Seeing his tone, Dillard had questioned if he was speaking to her like a child because she was in shock. Shades, however, reassured her that she would get away with this murder. Dillard then left to shower, but not before she turned back, and told Shades he would never be allowed to call her a bitch ever again, which Shades had then smiled at.
Framing Luke Cage
- "Goddamn vigilantes who call themselves heroes, like Luke Cage, they are dangerous. They are a menace to the safety, the security, and the sanctity of our community. You know what? People have used a lot of words to describe my cousin, but one word they have never used is coward and only a coward would hide in the shadows and kill an innocent man."
- ―Mariah Dillard[src]
With the New York City Police Department now on the scene, Dillard was then questioned by Detective Misty Knight. They discussed what exactly had happened in there, with Dillard claiming she had spoken to Cornell Stokes on the phone and when he had failed to call her back, she had come to Harlem's Paradise where she had found his body. Dillard had claimed to have found Candace Miller inside the club, who backed up Dillard's claims by telling Knight that Luke Cage had been the one who had killed Stokes.
Once Dillard arrived at the 29th Precinct Police Station, she was then hounded by several reporters who were all looking for any statement about Cottonmouth's death. When one reporter claimed Cage might be taking out the trash by murdering Cottonmouth, Dillard responded by telling them that her cousin was a musician trying to improve his life. Dillard went on to accuse the media of turning Cage into the folk hero due to his actions at Genghis Connie's, but none of them ever actually asked who he was. Faking emotion, Dillard had called Cage a coward before turning and walking inside of the police station.
As Dillard waited for Benjamin Donovan to arrive and pull Miller out of her questioning, she had also spoken to Alex Wesley, as she had him send out the footage of her speech to the media. Knight appeared as she mockingly clapped Dillard for her performances. Sending Wesley to wait with Tony, Dillard spoke to Knight and noted that she did not have any evidence against her as she insisted Cage was responsible, although Knight had argued whoever killed Stokes was clearly close to him. She then decided to leave, making reference to Rafael Scarfe before speaking to Priscilla Ridley on her way out of the station.
With Miller now free, Dillard had her driven home and sat next to her in the back seat, where she handed over an envelope filled with cash as the payment for her part in framing Cage for Cottonmouth's brutal murder. Miller then told Dillard that she never liked Cottonmouth and would have never have had sex with him, which was what had made her even more uncomfortable as that was now on the record. When Miller insisted she was not a whore, Dillard told her she was not, but a businesswoman who now had enough money which could change her and her whole entire family's lives for the better as a result.
Once Miller had returned to her home, Dillard spoke to Shades, who had been driving the car. When Shades then questioned what would happen, if Miller told the police the truth about who had really killed Cottonmouth, Dillard insisted she would not but claimed that if it ever happened then they would have to kill Miller and everybody who had lived in that apartment. Dillard claimed this would make this look like a home invasion, which upset her as Duke Ellington and Count Basie had once lived in there, and this would risk the market value. Shades listened and expressed his approval at Dillard's brutal methods.
Returning into her Brownstone once again, Dillard had placed down her belongings and sat down at her desk to continue her work with reinstating herself onto the Harlem City Council. However, just as she prepared to begin, Dillard found herself face to face with the picture of Mama Mabel. Despite now knowing that she was a cold-blooded murderer like her grandmother was, Dillard still insisted that she was not like her before she placed the picture down so that she could no longer see Mabel's image reflecting her own, refusing to allow herself to become even more corrupt than she already knew she was.
With Cornell Stokes' corpse having been moved into Joel Spurlock's Mortuary, Dillard came to pay her respects to her dead cousin. While she was looking down at his corpse, Dillard had reminisced about his mother, Jazmine Stokes, telling his corpse how his father, Malik, had wanted to be a father before he died of a drug overdoes and Jazmine left Stokes at Mama Mabel's home, as she had refused to be a single mother to the baby boy, which had only left Dillard to raise up Cornell as an infant.
Dillard's emotional farewell to her dead cousin was interrupted by the arrival of Shades, who assured her she had done what needed to be done. Shades told Dillard that Diamondback had arrived into the city and was angry that Cottonmouth was dead while Luke Cage was still alive and requested her help in finding Cage as he had disappeared. Dillard was then informed that she had now become the new face of Cottonmouth's criminal empire and needed to do something about it, although Dillard had insisted she did not want to be involved, only to be told she had to instead ensure a smooth transition of the power.
Agreeing to Shades' advice, Dillard walked into Colon's Gym in order to strike up a deal. Dillard found the gym cleaning up after a shootout and spoke with Domingo Colon, who explained Cage was the one to blame for their mess, expressing his condolences for Cottonmouth's sudden death. Speaking to Colon, Dillard was then told that while he did not trust Cottonmouth, he trusted her even less for pretending to be on the right side of the law, when she grew up on the wrong side just like so many others, claiming that it was not so easy to get away from that criminal lifestyle, which Dillard still refused to accept.
Dillard informed Colon that she needed her cousin's criminal empires to continue in New York City, when he asked if she would be running it she explained she would not but needed help from not just him, but everybody who Cottonmouth had sold guns to. Colon noted that not everyone he worked with had liked Cottonmouth, also telling her that there was something dangerous behind her eyes. Dillard focused on business though and told Colon to gather all of their criminal bosses together so she could make them an offer that could benefit them all, and would finally allow her to put their criminal world behind her.
Returning to her home, Dillard sadly looked into the mirror while Alex Wesley had then attempted to regain her attention. Dillard was then informed that the media was still attempting to reach out to her, with even Thembi Wallace requesting another interview, which Dillard had refused. Wesley showed footage that had leaked of Cage attacking two police officers and stealing the car. Wesley and Dillard had briefly discussed seeing that man, who had seemingly murdered her cousin before Wesley requested the chance to assist her in using his tragedy to push her political career within Harlem even further forward.
- "Word is you have a weapon that can take him down, kill Luke Cage. But if you do, and you go big, everyone else will come to you to help take down the rest of these super-freaks that are upsetting the natural order of things. You gotta go big pharma on this shit: you invent the disease, then you sell the cure."
- ―Mariah Dillard to Diamondback[src]
Dillard was joined by Shades as they returned to Colon's Gym to sort out their criminal businesses once and for all. Upon arriving, Shades took Dillard aside and asked if she was ready for their meeting, at which point she told him she was as ready as she would ever be. However Shades then made it clear that if the men inside that room sensed any weakness in her at all, then she would not only be done professionally and politically, but her life would be in danger too.
Once she stepped into the meeting, Domingo Colon had immediately accused her of being late, only for Dillard to insist she was really right on time. Dillard informed the meeting, that she would now be making changes, now that Cottonmouth was dead, causing Peter Hong to insist she get to the point. Dillard told the group she was not going to be following in Cottonmouth's footsteps in order to focus on politics, and instead would be selling off all of Cottonmouth's assets as well as his connections onto them all, a proposition that Jacques Alef and the others found appealing if difficult to believe due to the high cost.
However, the meeting was then interrupted by the sudden arrival of the uninvited Diamondback who began telling the group that he was furious that they were making a deal without him which could affect his income. Dillard watched in silence as, within just a few moments, Diamondback had then brutally murdered both Hong and Alef along with Neville Barnwell and Juan Carlos Castro, due to feeling ripped off, which had left only the horrified Dillard, Shades, and Colon alive as Diamondback stood over them all before he told Dillard she was clearly crazy for not flinching at seeing the massacre before her.
Dillard had then told Diamondback that she was not actually scared of him before suggesting they become allies due to a mutual hatred of Luke Cage. Diamondback promised he will kill Cage when the time was right, at which point Dillard simply recommended that instead of hunting down Cage, Diamondback should be selling all of his Judas Bullets onto the New York City Police Department and have them kill Cage for him. Diamondback agreed to the concept and decided she should be the one to take charge of their deals with the police force, using her own political influence to spread the fear about Cage.
Discussing Judas Bullets
Dillard was invited by Diamondback to visit Pier 22 Warehouse where she found him waiting for her, as Diamondback complained that she was late, and insisted that he would not travel to meet her, claiming that power did not travel, calling it to be the first rule for business and war. However, Dillard had claimed that Diamondback had no power without her, before complaining that he had not allowed Tony to bring her there, as she had gotten lost on her journey three times.
Having claimed he would have killed Tony for seeing their warehouse, Diamondback then invited Dillard inside. Seeing the weapons that he had on display, Dillard questioned if all this was the cure that he had spoken about, which Diamondback confirmed, as he explained how the Judas Bullet were made from Chitauri materials. However, Dillard was still unimpressed by these, as she noted how Diamondback had already shot Luke Cage with the bullets, and Cage had survived, only for Diamondback to insist he had only needed to make Cage bleed in order to prove his point about how effective the bullets could be.
Still unconvinced, Dillard had questioned who would actually be able to afford to buy the bullets, only for Diamondback to explain that the bullets could be broken down for mass production, so they would be less powerful but could be put into any machine gun, rather than just the Judas Rifle. When Dillard insisted that she was a politician, not a gun runner, Diamondback questioned what the difference really was, before simply noting that they could use the footage of Cage fighting the New York City Police Department to instill fear of him, noting that fear of black men was how gun laws got enacted in the first place.
Despite Diamondback's pitch, Dillard claimed that these laws needed to be decided through the bureaucracy meaning that she would need time to convince the police to buy these bullets from them. However, Diamondback claimed that Dillard was out of time, as he intended to get started with revenge, much to Dillard's horror. Dillard watched as Diamondback put on the Judas Gauntlet, as he then claimed that he would cause a few theatric deaths to drive fear through Harlem, with Dillard then insisting that Cage needed to remain as their main focus, with Diamondback still insisting that Cage was always his focus.
As Dillard learned that Diamondback had used the Judas Gauntlet to murder Officer Jackie Albini in broad daylight, she went into Harlem's Paradise to confront him. Dillard demanded Diamondback to admit killing Albini, noting that there were now children getting harassed by their New York City Police Department. As Dillard questioned what he was doing to her city, Diamondback claimed that Harlem was not hers and it never had been, which Dillard argued against.
In response, Diamondback just quoted the Bible, as Dillard mocked him for this, only for Diamondback to calmly threaten her by claiming to be Death itself. Diamondback claimed that Dillard's attempts to go through all their official routes were taking too long to get done, so he had simply framed Luke Cage for Albini's murder, meaning that Cage would either be forced to run or return into New York City to clear his name, where he would use the Judas Bullet to finally kill Cage. Dillard claimed Diamondback was losing all control, to which he insisted she was not a real politician, as she was unable to regain her control.
Disgracing the Police
- "All over Harlem, young black and brown men are being slapped around by an NYPD too scared to do something about Luke Cage, and because Lonnie Wilson, our brother just had the misfortune of knowing this supposed superhero turned super-menace he was beaten in custody like it's 1956."
- ―Mariah Dillard[src]
Dillard had later learned of Lonnie Wilson being unlawfully arrested by the New York City Police Department, where he was brutally beaten during his questioning by Dorsey. Believing that she could use this situation to their advantage, Dillard and Patricia Wilson then stormed into the police station, where Dillard had presented Priscilla Ridley with all the photographs of Lonnie's injuries caused by Dorsey, promising that she would release these to the media within the next fifteen minutes, although Ridley simply insisted that Dillard not make their bad situation even worse.
This had resulted in an argument between Ridley and Patricia, who insisted that their police's search for Luke Cage was getting innocent people, like her son, hurt as the direct result. Dillard had then spoken up, claiming that the police would only understand the action, dismissing Ridley's promises that Dorsey had been suspended without pay, as she claimed that the death of Jackie Albini, as well as that assault on Lonnie meant that the police were still not doing their job. Dillard and Patricia then went to storm out, while Misty Knight attempted to stop them and ask how Lonnie was, which only angered Patricia more.
Dillard had then insisted that until Cage could be found and brought to justice, they would bring Harlem down to its knees. Stepping out of the 29th Precinct Police Station, Dillard then gave a speech to the media that were waiting for her, claiming the police were targeting the young black people all across Harlem, instead of focusing on finding Cage and bringing him into justice. Dillard claimed that Lonnie was beaten down by this police force just for having known Cage, while calling Cage a superhero who had become a super menace, sparking outrage from those people who were there, listening to her speech.
Dillard had then commented that she encouraged their police to arm themselves to help capture Cage, putting them into a position to buy the Judas Bullets, claiming that they had to focus on capturing Cage. With the public now on her side, Dillard invited them to attend a rally at Harlem's Paradise, aimed at forcing the police to focus their efforts on finding and recapturing Cage, claiming that she wanted to find the non-violent plans for action. Throughout the speech, Dillard was also watched by Diamondback, who remained in his car and just watched closely as the public comes to strongly support Dillard's message.
Rally at Harlem's Paradise
- "Brothers and sisters our world has changed. We have new threats, new terrorists. That woman over in Hell's Kitchen snapped a man's neck because he was mind-controlling her. We got that bulletproof murderer on the loose in Harlem with his twisted sense of justice, putting us all in harm's way. Do I trust the cops? Hell no."
- ―Mariah Dillard to Harlem[src]
Dillard had hosted her large rally at Harlem's Paradise in response to the assault of Lonnie Wilson, as she listened to the crowds chanting their demands for such violence to stop. Taking the microphone, Dillard told the crowd of how Cottonmouth had been murdered on that floor where they were now standing, claiming that it was painful for her to even be in that building again. Dillard had claimed that Luke Cage was the one who killed her cousin, calling him a menace.
Having also insisted that Cage needed to be stopped and brought to justice, Dillard then went on to note that the crowds had come there in response to the New York City Police Department's assault against Wilson, calling this wrong. However, Dillard ensured that the crowds remained focused on Cage, claiming that it was Cage who had killed Jackie Albini, resulting in Wilson's assault. Dillard claimed that the world had changed and they had new threats to deal with, noting how Jessica Jones had broken Kilgrave's neck because of Kilgrave's mind control powers, before once again calling Cage a murderer.
Dillard had then claimed that she did not entirely trust their police to deal with these situations, claiming that the people of Harlem needed protection from Cage and people with similar abilities to Cage, much to the crowd's delight. With the intention of driving up a demand for the Judas Bullets, Dillard insisted that they needed to arm their police forces to deal with Cage, while also noting that the police must never confuse them with that real threat of Cage and those others similar to him. Dillard's speech was watched on by Diamondback, who had still remained on the upper levels of the Paradise throughout the rally.
Having gained the full support of their crowds, Dillard then welcomed John Pope to speak, as Dillard then walked into the crowd, telling one of her assistants to get email addresses and headcounts for the event. Having greeted several people in there, Dillard had then noticed that Damon Boone was in attendance, who questioned if she was now so desperate to stay politically relevant that she was using Wilson, while claiming that Dillard was still going to be forced off the city council, due to her criminal connections. However, Dillard simply dismissed Boone's claims, insisting to not know what he meant.
Boone had then noted that Cage clearly did not kill Albini, noting that it was Cage who had taken down Cottonmouth's entire operation at the Crispus Attucks Complex, while commenting on the seven million dollars found inside of Dillard's offices. Boone noted how Brenda had backed off Dillard in the wake of Cottonmouth's demise, but insisted that he still saw right through her. While keeping a smile on her face, Dillard had questioned how Boone could make these accusations, to which he insisted that she could not be trusted, although Dillard then claimed that she did not need trust now that she had her power.
However, their rally was eventually interrupted once Misty Knight had tried to arrest Diamondback, resulting in a shootout, as Knight was saved at the last moment by Cage's arrival. During the chaos, Dillard was pulled out by one of her guards, while their other attendees were held hostage by Diamondback. Once she was safe, Dillard had a meeting with Harlem's major, to discuss selling Judas Bullets to take down Cage, as he had been blamed for their situation. Dillard's plans worked, as Mario Green's unit was given the Judas Bullets, resulting in Cage being arrested while Diamondback managed to escape.
Alex Wesley's Advice
- "I need to get out in front of this. Release my statement about Damon Boone and how much I respected him."
"That is not what I was gonna say."
"Well, please, no lectures."
"This is just a thing. Things can be rebuilt, and when you do, you rebuild it as your legacy."
- ―Mariah Dillard and Alex Wesley[src]
In the wake of the hostage situation, Dillard had returned to Harlem's Paradise, finding broken glass across the floor and much of the club completely destroyed by all of their gunfire. Looking around, Dillard commented on how Mama Mabel loved the club, noting how she used to take care of all the details. As she picked up broken bottles, Dillard smashed them onto the floor, claiming the club was Mabel's legacy, and that their Stokes Crime Family was now in complete ruins, all because of Diamondback's actions.
Taking a breath, Dillard admitted that she knew she had to get on top of their situation and make a statement about Damon Boone's death. However, Alex Wesley had claimed to have another solution, to which Dillard insisted that he not give her a lecture. Wesley then told Dillard that the Paradise was merely a thing that could be rebuilt, noting that once Dillard had rebuilt it, it could become her own legacy. This then made Dillard turn around as Wesley had then claimed that he wanted to be a part of this legacy. Wesley had suggested that the first priority would be to control the narrative, ensuring they had no loose ends.
Dillard listened with surprise as Wesley noted that they had to ensure that they knew of anybody who might have overheard conversations Dillard had with either Diamondback or Shades, noting that all these people could be a threat to them, which Dillard had agreed with. As Wesley claimed that he was at her service, Dillard had noted that she would not want him to do anything untoward, although Wesley made it clear that he had intended to remain by Dillard's side, regardless of what came next. Dillard and Wesley then identified Candace Miller as a potential threat to their secrets, as Wesley was sent to find her.
Dillard met with Alex Wesley back at her Brownstone, to discuss the search for Candace Miller, with Wesley admitting that he had lost sight of them after she had left the park with Misty Knight. However, Dillard complimented Wesley for his work at tracking down Miller and confirming that she was working with the New York City Police Department, as this kind of work was all new for him, as Dillard let Wesley out of her Brownstone, just before getting a phone call.
Answering the call, Dillard realized that it was Diamondback, as she demanded to know what he wanted, while he claimed that this was no way to speak to her partner. However, Dillard noted that following what Diamondback did to Harlem's Paradise, he should not expect her to play nice, while he had told her to double-check her attitude. Diamondback claimed that if Dillard was not useful to him, then she was not useful to anyone, telling her that Shades would have told her the same thing if he was still alive. As Dillard expressed shock that Shades was dead, Diamondback had claimed he did this for her.
Diamondback went on to claim that he had taken Damon Boone and Shades off the table so that she could grow in their organization, with Dillard claiming that she was never fond of Shades and that Boone's death was appreciated. Dillard told Diamondback that she would be stepping out of the politics and focusing on Harlem's Paradise, using it for the community relations. However, Diamondback then revealed he had been inside the Brownstone the entire time, as he told Dillard that, while this was a smart move, Dillard had also made some dumb ones, such as talking about murder while on an open phone line.
Diamondback had then placed a bag onto Dillard's table and told her to open it up, which she did and then found piles of cash inside, as Diamondback explained that it was all seed money for Dillard's New Harlem Renaissance, as well as to refurbish Harlem's Paradise, with Diamondback apologizing for the damages. Acknowledging that this could not be for free, Diamondback claimed that his only condition for the money was her loyalty, telling Dillard that if she stayed loyal to him, then Harlem could be remade in her own image, although Dillard had then claimed that Harlem was already made in her own image.
Attempting to remain strong throughout their discussions, Dillard had then questioned if Diamondback was planning on staying in Harlem, to which he had promised that he would leave as soon as his conflict with Luke Cage had finally been concluded. However, Diamondback still promised Dillard that she would feel that occasional cool breeze when he returned into her city, before wishing her sweet dreams and walking out of her Brownstone, which had deeply disturbed Dillard as she fell down to her sofa, and caught her breath while reconsidering what her next plan of action would be to handle Diamondback.
Return of Shades
- "You and I have come a long way. You know, sometimes you have to reach across the aisle to get things done."
"You're talking about Luke Cage? It's incredible how much you and I think alike. We're at war. And right now, the enemy of my enemy is my friend."
"Maybe. But it might not take."
- ―Mariah Dillard and Shades[src]
Dillard had remained inside of her Brownstone and, examined all that money that Diamondback had given to her, debating the true cost of accepting it and what Diamondback would then expect from her as a result of her using it for Harlem's Paradise and her New Harlem Renaissance. Taking a drink, Dillard went over to a box on her table, containing the Stokes' Revolver, as she took the gun out to admire it. However, Dillard was then interrupted by the arrival of Shades, who told her to get a better security system.
Shades questioned whether Diamondback told her that he was dead, which she confirmed before he noticed the money and questioned if Diamondback had gotten to her already, although Dillard insisted that he had not. Shades had then noticed the Revolver in Dillard's hands, questioning what she was doing with it, as it was not the real her, to which Dillard simply told him to shut up. Shades then told Dillard that he had something for her, before presenting a champagne bottle that she had struck Cottonmouth with, before killing him, which was now the only remaining evidence of her involvement with this murder.
Dillard noted that Shades would no longer have anything to blackmail her with, to which he claimed that he no longer needed it, since they were in this together. Taking the bottle, Dillard noted they had come a long way together, before claiming they would need to reach across the aisle to get things done, as Shades then acknowledged that she meant working with Luke Cage to defeat Diamondback. Shades had admitted that he had been thinking that same thing, noting that they were at war, and so the enemy of his enemy was his friend, although Dillard noted that Cage might be unwilling to work with Shades.
Dillard reminded Shades of how he and Comanche had beaten him up while in Seagate Penitentiary, resulting in him gaining his powers, while Tone had shot and killed Pop, which had broken Cage's heart, as she questioned if Cage would be willing to forget all that to work with them to beat Diamondback. However, Shades stayed confident as he claimed to have what Cage always wanted more than anything, presenting Dillard with their evidence required to clear his name and return to his old life as Carl Lucas. Dillard noted that their best case situation would be Diamondback and Cage killing each other.
Having agreed to his plan, Dillard had rejoined Shades in their car as they drove to Pop's Barber Shop and parked outside. As they sat in the car together, Dillard noted that even if they were able to finally take down Diamondback, they would still not be forgiven by Luke Cage for framing him for Cottonmouth's death, resulting with him having to go onto the run, although Shades insisted that they could easily handle that situation, as they were the only people who actually knew what happened on the night of Cottonmouth's death and so they could both still control that narrative.
Dillard claimed that she would regret killing Cottonmouth for the rest of her life, to which Shades insisted that she had only done what she had to do, and should not regret that. Dillard questioned why Shades had been at Harlem's Paradise that night, to which he explained that he had gone there to murder Cottonmouth himself, and Dillard simply beat him to it. Dillard then noted that Cottonmouth had never needed her money and never intended to pay it back, but had just wanted to keep her in the Stokes Crime Family, and now she was becoming the person, which Cottonmouth had always known that she really was.
Dillard and Shades had then entered in the Barber Shop, where they were seen by Bobby Fish who claimed that "Hell" must be frozen over for Dillard to come there. Cage then greeted the pair, as Shades told him that they had a problem, only for Cage to claim that his problem was simply deciding who to knock out first. When Cage demanded to know where Diamondback was, Shades insisted that they did not know, but claimed that they needed to set up the parlay between the three of them, although Cage then reminded them that Pop had tried to make a parlay before Tone and shot and killed him right there.
Cage again demanded to know Diamondback's location, threatening to beat Shades like they were back in Seagate Prison before Dillard managed to calm the situation down, telling Cage they had a mutual enemy with Diamondback and the only way to take him down would be for them to work together. When Cage insisted he would not work with them, Dillard then claimed that he should end his beef with them if they helped him find Diamondback, although Cage noted that they had both framed him for killing Cottonmouth. However, Shades then presented Cage with the folder containing all the evidence needed to prove his innocence and that Diamondback framed him for murder.
While Cage considered the offer, he questioned what would happen about him being framed for Cottonmouth's murder, to which Dillard had promised to inform the New York City Police Department that it was actually Diamondback who had murdered Cottonmouth, as well as Damon Boone. However, their group was then interrupted by the sudden arrival of Misty Knight, who then told Dillard that she would now be getting arrested for the murder of Cottonmouth. Dillard then witnessed the standoffs between Shades and Knight, as both pulled their guns out, while Cage attempted to calm the situation down.
However, the standoff was interrupted when Cage noticed a grenade being thrown at the door, as Dillard and all the others used Cage as a shield to protect them from the explosion. As the group got back up, they saw Diamondback enter, wearing his Battle Suit, which Fish had immediately mocked. Shades had then questioned if Dillard had told Diamondback where they were, which she denied. When Shades had attempted to shoot Diamondback, they then discovered that the suit was completely bulletproof, causing Dillard and Shades to make their escape as Cage had challenged Diamondback to their final fight.
While Cage and Diamondback had furiously fought each other in the Barber Shop, Dillard and Shades had made it back to their car, only for Shades to then realize that they had left the folder containing the evidence of Cage's innocence back in the Barber Shop. Considering what they would do next, Dillard told Shades that she had another plan for their situation, as she had instead got on the phone with Alex Wesley and informed him about the fight between Diamondback and Cage, telling him to call Thembi Wallace, before telling Shades that if Knight arrested her, she still had some time to spin their narrative.
As Cage and Diamondback's fight went into Harlem's streets, Dillard set up an interview with WJBP-TV, where she questioned who Cage really was, making reference to Cage's former life as Carl Lucas and his escape from Seagate Prison. As Diamondback had then thrown a motorbike at Cage, Dillard told their cameras to look at them, as she claimed that this was the battle for Harlem's soul, while calling them super freaks. Eventually, the fight turned in Cage's favor, as he was able to tire out Diamondback and then knocked him out with the final powerful punch that sent him flying backwards, ending their battle.
With Diamondback defeated, Dillard had then witnessed Cage being surrounded by Mario Green's unit, who had threatened to shoot him with Judas Bullets, only for Knight to regain control of their situation, and take Cage into custody herself, without causing another battle. Knight then walked over to Dillard and once again informed her that she was under arrest for Cottonmouth's murder, ensuring Wallace's cameras captured this moment. Enraged, Dillard told Knight that she would end her entire career, although Knight remained unconcerned by all this and had Dillard taken away by several police officers.
Questioned by the Police
Dillard was then taken to the 29th Precinct Police Station, where she was photographed for the records. While she was being interviewed by Jake Smith, Dillard had witnessed Luke Cage being brought into their station by Misty Knight, although Cage was not put under arrest. Dillard was then taken into their interrogation room, where she was left alone for a considerable amount of time until Dillard had become frustrated and banged her fists down onto the table, while she continued to demand her phonecall.
Dillard had continued to fidget and played with her earrings while she waited, commenting to herself that it would all end there. Eventually, Dillard was rejoined by Priscilla Ridley who began their interrogation, with Dillard claiming that she had told Cottonmouth that enough was enough, that he had enough cash to keep Harlem's Paradise running, and could open a new club within Harlem, claiming that Cottonmouth could not resist staying in the crime businesses. Dillard claimed that it had been Diamondback who was Cottonmouth's direct contact, as she acted as though she did not know much about Diamondback.
Dillard claimed for Ridley that Diamondback had become angry when the Hammer Industries guns had been stolen from Cottonmouth, with Dillard making a point to mention Rafael Scarfe's involvement in that situation. Although Dillard then tried to claim that Cottonmouth was never involved with all this, Ridley made it clear that they knew it was Cottonmouth who had shot Scarfe, as Dillard had pleaded ignorance about all of this. Dillard told Ridley that Cottonmouth was scared and wanted out of all of this before he had been killed by Diamondback, while Dillard claimed that Diamondback threatened her own life.
Dillard continued to lie since she claimed that Diamondback had also demanded that she tell their New York City Police Department that it was Cage who had murdered Cottonmouth, which Ridley remained unconvinced by. Ridley had asked Dillard about Candace Miller, with Dillard claiming that Miller had been attempting to protect her, before claiming that she had felt terrible for lying about Cage's involvement with Cottonmouth's murder, promising to do whatever was needed to clear his name. However, Knight then entered their room, noting that she would ensure that Dillard did indeed make up for all her lies.
As Knight demanded that Dillard begin telling them the truth, Dillard insisted that she was not any liar. However, Knight began presenting Dillard with photographs of Cottonmouth's corpse, as she explained how they had deduced that Cottonmouth was struck on the back of the head by some form of a bottle, before then being pushed out of his office window, as Knight had explained in detail the exact facts about how Cottonmouth had been murdered as he had begged for his life. Once Knight had finished, Dillard tried to dismiss her claims, insisting that the mic stand might have been stolen by stagehands.
Knight went on to claim that Cottonmouth had been hurt, so it would not have taken a man to beat him to death, just somebody who was angry and passionate enough for seeing him dead. Knight had then also claimed that their cover-up was sloppy, before presenting audio of Miller admitting to Knight that she had also overheard Shades and Dillard talking about the murder. When Dillard struggled to think of an excuse, Knight insisted that she only needed to tell the truth. Knight suggested that Dillard make a deal to help them convict Shades and Diamondback and to confirm Cottonmouth's criminal contacts.
Attempting to appear confident, Dillard questioned if that audio was the only evidence that Knight had against her, claiming that it would never hold up in any court of law, although Knight had still remained confident that she would be able to finally get Dillard sent to prison. However, before Knight could continue with the interrogation, Mark Bailey had stormed into the interrogation room, as he demanded to speak with Knight. Although Knight had tried to insist that she would speak to Bailey later, Bailey claimed that it was important, as Knight left the room, leaving Dillard to consider her next plan of action.
Once Knight returned into the room, Dillard questioned if it had been an important call, only for Knight to immediately furiously attempt to assault Dillard, calling her a murderer while Ridley and Bailey held her back. While Knight continued to yell at her, Dillard then claimed that Knight was hysterical, before Knight accused her of murdering both Cottonmouth and Miller, with Dillard acting shocked at the news of Miller's death. Knight accused Dillard of stealing her phone at Pop's Barber Shop to call Miller, although Dillard claimed that Knight would say anything to get her conviction, while also asking for the proof.
Dillard then claimed that she had loved her cousin as she would test that love against the recording of Miller's accusation any day in law, calling Miller a dead whore. Becoming confident about her situation, Dillard then asked Knight and Ridley if she was actually still getting charged with anything, knowing that they had lost their most vital piece of evidence against her. The frustrated Ridley then confessed that she was not being charged, as Dillard had once again claimed that it was Diamondback who had killed Cottonmouth, telling Ridley to keep Diamondback in custody before walking out the room.
On her way out of the police station, Dillard collected her coat before she was confronted by Cage, who was shocked to see her being let free. Seeing him, Dillard mockingly called Cage the hero for Harlem, noting that he was good for the neighborhood, to which Cage had claimed that Dillard was not. Cage had then questioned what would happen with their deal, asking Dillard what had happened to the file that would clear his name and allow him to return into his life as Carl Lucas. However, Dillard instead denied all knowledge of this file and had simply walked away, much to Cage's considerable frustration.
Once outside of the police station, Dillard made her statement to the media that were waiting, before witnessing Cage being taken back to Seagate Penitentiary by Marshals Johnson and Franco, much to the delight of Dillard. Dillard was then collected by Alex Wesley, who had agreed to do whatever Dillard wanted from him, as Shades had then presented her with the Stokes' Revolver, which he had used to shoot Miller and thus gained Dillard's freedom, as he said that the gun was old school and it suited her, which Dillard agreed with. Satisfied with their end result, Dillard had then told Wesley to drive them away.
Having regained her freedom, Dillard returned into Harlem's Paradise and arranged for Sharon Jones to perform in the club for them, while she also had Cottonmouth's portrait of Biggie Smalls taken down off the office wall, and replaced with her Jean-Michel Basquiat painting instead. Dillard was then joined by Shades, who Dillard passionately kissed before walking away to enjoy Jones' performance. While she then took her seat on the balcony to watch Jones' performance with Shades, while drinking champagne, Dillard was watched by Knight, who had remained determined to bring Dillard to justice one day.
Plans of Retirement
Meeting with Piranha Jones
- "When do you need our investment?"
"Yesterday. I've already set up the shell company in the Caymans, you've already given me power of attorney, so you're insulated."
"Mark Higgins won't wanna sell that company."
"If you can convince Mark Higgins otherwise, you'll never have to worry about money another day in your life. Legitimate millions."
- ―Mariah Dillard and Piranha Jones[src]
During her rise in power, Dillard began to think of ways to move away from the violent history of their Stokes Crime Family, considering new ways of gaining money without following in Cottonmouth's footsteps. Dillard and Shades then met with Piranha Jones at Ginny's Supper Club, where Jones pitched the idea of investing into plastics, which Dillard laughed at. However, Jones explained that Mark Higgins and Atreus Plastics had brand new plastic-based technology that the rest of the world were still unaware of, giving Dillard and Shades their perfect opportunity to get involved.
When presented with the Black Enterprise with Higgins' face on the cover, Dillard noted that she had known Higgins for years, and was aware of how much Higgins got off on the idea of being the head of their largest black-owned plastics company in the world, suggesting that Higgins would be unwilling to sell it to them. When Jones listed everything he knew about how they could turn an investment into a billion-dollar profit, Shades noted that this was insider information, to which Dillard noted how Mama Mabel always thrived from this insider information, questioning when Jones will need the investment.
While Jones noted that their best move was to use both Dillard and Shades' criminal techniques to attempt to persuade Higgins to give up his company to them, their conversation was then interrupted by the arrival of the waiter who mistook Dillard for Shades' aunt, much to Shades' considerable annoyance. Dillard, however, responded by sucking on Shades' thumb seductively until the waiter walked away. Dillard and Shades then shared a kiss, while Comanche and Jones watched on awkwardly during Dillard and Shades' sexual flirting, as they then continued speaking with Jones about all of his ideas.
Recruiting the Seductress
- "You will find that there is something in common with the rappers, the moguls, the politicians, and the hustlers that come to Paradise looking for something. Clock that, own it, and this entire city could be yours. There are intangible benefits to being provocative, yet friendly."
- ―Mariah Dillard to Stephanie Miller[src]
Having returned to Harlem's Paradise, Dillard had set up her meeting with Stephanie Miller who was looking for a job at the Paradise as a hostess, as Dillard had Miller stand up and show off her figure to her, which Dillard approved of. Dillard then told Miller that she could either look at having this job as a simply being a hostess and only come away with ankle pain from her heels she would wear, or she could simply play both sides against the middle, while she commented on how Miller had done it her entire life, which Miller had agreed with.
Dillard had then claimed that Miller would be able to find something in common between those rappers and politicians who came to the Paradise looking for something, as she told Miller to find it and own it, and then Harlem could be hers. Dillard had claimed that would be benefits to being both provocative yet friendly with this job, making it clear that she expected Miller to seduce all the male guests, as she wanted her to seduce Mark Higgins in the club, as part of their plan to blackmail Higgins into then selling Atreus Plastics. Miller promised that she understood the concept, resulting in Dillard hiring her.
When Dillard had then called Miller by the new name of "Billy," Miller attempted to correct her, only for Dillard to insist that this would be her name, claiming that this was due to Miller's sad, yet compelling eyes, noting that they would make men want to save her and tell her secrets, which they could use. Miller then left Dillard's office, before Dillard went over to the counter to pour herself a drink while looking at the framed picture of Mama Mabel on the counter. Dillard told the picture of Mabel that she had become better than her, while she had poured herself a drink, confident about her plans for the future.
Meeting with the Criminals
- "What are you gonna do, Luke? You gonna arrest me? You gonna slap me around?"
"You'd probably like that."
"Oh we could tussle a little bit, no doubt. But I think it might make your girlfriend, Claire, a little jealous. I like her dress, be a shame if something happened to her. Take her home, Carl."
- ―Mariah Dillard and Luke Cage[src]
Dillard returned to Harlem's Paradise in the evening, where she took her usual spot on the balcony and watched while Joi performed for the crowds. During the performance, Dillard look across the balcony and noticed that Mark Higgins was also in attendance, while Dillard had then witnessed Stephanie Miller presenting Higgins with his drink before Higgins placed his hand on Miller's behind as she had seduced him. Witnessing Higgins fall for her trap, Dillard muttered that she had got him, before walking away.
Stepping into her offices, Dillard and Shades had looked down at the attendees as Dillard asked Shades to brief her on the men she would be meeting to take over her criminal empire, with Dillard insisting that Shades not leave out any details. Shades then pointed to Arturo Rey III, noting how Rey smuggled their drugs in his sofas, and had taken the cocaine business in the wake of Domingo Colon's death. Shades then briefed Dillard on Nigel Garrison of the Yardies, as Shades also reminded Dillard of how they had previously witnessed Diamondback murdering Neville Barnwell, who was Garrison's younger brother.
Finally, Shades pointed out Cockroach Hamilton who was speaking with Comanche, as Shades noted that Cockroach had been put into prison by Rafael Scarfe, and had to then be freed since Scarfe was revealed to be dirty. Shades suggested that Dillard changed her mind about selling up their business, suggesting they could sell her Jean-Michel Basquiat painting instead, but Dillard had refused, noting that if their deal with Piranha Jones was successful then all of the sins of the Stokes family would wash away, allowing them to live without any risk, which Shades accepted before going to collect their guests.
With everyone in her office, Dillard invited them to pitch for buying up the Stokes' criminal empire, as Rey III stood up first and told her that all of his millions were legit and he already had the required product, explaining that Dillard's guns would mean further protections as well, as the wall between Harlem and Washington Heights, promising that he would be able to bring a piece. Satisfied by Rey III's pitch, Dillard had then invited Garrison to make his case for buying the guns from her, who commented on how the Yardies fought against the Stokes in the past, but claimed that he was willing to make money with them.
Garrison went on to note how these guns would not only bring peace between Uptown and Brooklyn, but would also help the Yardies fight off the Russian Mafia and Korean Mob. However, Garrison's pitch for their guns was interrupted when Hamilton began laughing at him, as he then stepped up and simply told Dillard that she would be a fool to give either Rey III or Garrison any real power, claiming that he did not want to take over her business, but just take a controlling interest in it so they could make their money together, noting that they would be able to keep Harlem black, which he claimed that it should be.
However, their meeting was interrupted once the group had noticed that Luke Cage had just entered into the club, casually knocking out Comanche with a slap to the head, as he had made his way towards Dillard's offices. As the men stepped out and confronted Cage, who crushed Comanche's gun in his bare hands, Dillard had then stepped forward, insisting that Cage would not do anything and ordering all of them to put all the guns away. Looking him up and down, Dillard told Cage that his time inside Seagate Penitentiary had clearly done good things for his body, questioning if he had been in fights while there.
Dillard had then questioned what Cage had actually planned to do, as she knew that he could not arrest her and had doubted that he would assault her, like Comanche. As Cage claimed that Dillard would likely enjoy being slapped around by him, she had then jokingly claimed to be more than happy to tussle with Cage, before noting that this could also make Claire Temple jealous, making it clear that she knew about Cage's relationship with Temple, before pointing out that Temple had come inside the club. Dillard told Cage that she liked Temple's dress, before claiming that it would be a shame if anything happened to her, telling Cage to take Temple back home, as he reluctantly agreed.
Advised by Shades
Returning to her Brownstone, Dillard drank a bottle of whiskey alone before Shades joined her, when he commented that this was not her usual brand, Dillard noted that it was Mama Mabel's favorite and it was Mabel's birthday, although Shades had questioned why she would celebrate somebody who she hated. Sitting down, Shades then advised Dillard to go with Cockroach Hamilton's offer to buy the guns from them, noting that this would actually be the deal that would bring them the most risk-free income which would allow them to eventually retire from their life of crime.
While Shades noted that selling to Arturo Rey III would not be selling to the top dog in their crime world, however, Dillard still insisted that selling to Cockroach would put Harlem at risk as she viewed him as a lunatic. Dillard explained that Shades how the income from this deal could finally allow her to be free from the name of Stokes, which had haunted her throughout her entire life. Shades, however, noted that even with all of the money in the world, some people would still look down on her, but this did not seem to phase Dillard who had jokingly claimed that people would be referring to her as "Ms N***a."
As Dillard seductively climbed onto Shades' lap, she questioned if he was getting sick of being the gangster for so long, questioning if he wanted to go by his real name rather than Shades, allowing them to finally begin living their normal, crime-free life. Aroused by Dillard's touch, Shades informed her that Rey III would make his deal to buy their guns that same evening, also commenting that he had already given him a Judas Rifle as well as a Judas Bullet in order to sweeten the deal. Dillard then passionately kissed Shades while still sat on his lap, commenting to him that she trusted him, like nobody else.
Luke Cage's Threat
While she was working in her office in Harlem's Paradise, Dillard was shocked as Luke Cage stormed in to personally confront her, with his hoody almost completely burnt off. While Dillard had been protected by Shades and Comanche who briefly drew their guns at him, Cage had calmly walked up over to Dillard's desk and presented the broken Judas Bullet to her, while claiming that it had simply bounced off his skin when Arturo Rey III had attempted to shoot him, which had meant there was seemingly no possible way to actually kill Cage.
Cage had then told Dillard that if she ever mentioned Claire Temple's name to him again, he would simply kill her and happily be sent back into Seagate Penitentiary with a smile on his face. As he got into her face, Dillard was forced to listen closely while Cage had warned that there was no bullet that could kill him, and no jail that could hold him, meaning that there was nothing that could actually stop him getting to her and finally bringing her to justice. Shaken by this threat, Dillard had remained silent as Cage had confidently walked out of her office before Dillard threw her drink off the table out of sheer frustration.
Discussing Luke Cage
- "This shit took my mother, it took my grandmother, my uncle, it took Cornell. What if Arturo's already talked to the cops?"
"It's not what they know, it's what they can prove, and they can't prove shit. Comanche and I are gonna get every dime of Arturo's money, and this weight, is not yours to carry alone."
- ―Mariah Dillard and Shades[src]
While inside her offices in Harlem's Paradise, Dillard had complained about how the Judas Bullet had failed to kill Luke Cage like they had been designed to, as Comanche suggested that Cage might have some new body armor, although Dillard had just dismissed Comanche by questioning who he was and demanded he leaves. Once Comanche had left, Dillard took a drink, while Shades noted how early it was in the morning to be drinking, much to Dillard's annoyance.
Dillard then noted that she and Shades would be unable to leave the crime world without Arturo Rey III's twenty million dollars that he was going to buy all their guns for, and now Rey III was being held inside of the 29th Precinct Police Station following his attempting murder of Cage. In response to this, Shades had once again suggested Dillard sell her Jean-Michel Basquiat painting, which she had still refused to do, although Shades claimed that there was no reason to sell the gun business, to which Dillard then insisted that she wanted to get out of the crime world, noting how this work had killed most of her family.
Looking at their office window, Dillard had noted that their work also killed Cottonmouth. Becoming increasingly nervous of their situation, Dillard asked Shades what happened if Rey III had already talked to the New York City Police Department, although Shades insisted that they would be unable to prove anything. Shades assured Dillard that he and Comanche would get every dime of Rey III's money, while he promised that this weight of pressure was not Dillard's to carry alone, as he claimed that this was what he was there for. Feeling reassured, Dillard embraced Shades, as Comanche watched from outside.
- "I have no idea where she is."
"Don't lie to me. You hired the best. I'm the best. She just opened a holistic boutique on Lenox. You know our people. Everyone loves a family reunion. We play it as, "Mariah Dillard, a promising black female politician on the rise, felled by tragedy and controversy, hits her rock bottom. Then, at her lowest point, she reunites with her child."
- ―Mariah Dillard and Wendy Dunnavant[src]
Dillard had arranged for Benjamin Donovan to go straight to the 29th Precinct Police Station and get Arturo Rey III freed from custody, before he could give their police any valuable information about her. Returning into her Brownstone, Dillard then had her meeting with Wendy Dunnavant, who informed Dillard that their numbers were down for her Family First Initiative, as Dunnavant explained that public opinions regarding Dillard's connection to Cottonmouth and his criminal history had affected these numbers.
Annoyed by that, Dillard questioned if she should give away a turkey like Nicky Barnes had done years earlier, to which Dunnavant instead questioned what Tilda Johnson was doing these days, as she asked if Johnson was indeed a doctor who was following in the footsteps of her late father. Dunnavant noted that Dillard had not been seen publicly with her daughter in twelve years, at Dillard's first campaign run, as she then questioned what had happened, to which Dillard claimed that she simply had no ideas where her daughter now was, while Dunnavant had told her never to lie to her about this.
Dunnavant presented Dillard with her picture of Johnson, explaining that she had just opened Mother's Touch in Harlem, suggesting that Dillard reunites with Johnson, as their media would greatly enjoy that narrative, with Dunnavant suggesting all the possible headlines that would come out of Dillard and Johnson's public reunion, in the wake of Dillard's brush with family tragedy, while she compared the image that Dillard could put out for their world to Michelle Obama. Despite being highly reluctant to get involved with her daughter again, Dillard decided that Dunnavant's advice would be their best option.
Reunion with Tilda Johnson
Dillard had then traveled into Mother's Touch, where she found Tilda Johnson helping her customer with some herbs, as Johnson reacted with shock at seeing her estranged mother in her store. As they then stood in awkward silence for a brief moment, Dillard asked why Johnson was looking at her in that way, to which Johnson told her that she was waiting for Dillard to give her a condescending speech about how she had thrown her life away, wasting the money spent on a medical school by opening a store rather than becoming a doctor.
However, Dillard had made it clear that she had researched the kind of work that Johnson had been doing, before claiming that this kind of medicine suited Johnson, only questioning why she would name it Mother's Touch, to which Johnson explained that there were studies that showed that mothers had healing effects for their sick children when they cared. Johnson had then noted that it was not birthday and there was no funeral or holiday planned, so she questioned what Dillard was doing there, calling Dillard by her first name, which Dillard demanded that she not do, as she told Johnson to respect her.
Johnson questioned what she needed, to which Dillard explained she needed her, much to her shock. Dillard then went on to note that she did not have a time machine to change the past, and only had herself and the current time, requesting the second chance for a relationship with her daughter. As Dillard told Johnson that she could become the mother she always wanted her to be, although Johnson made it clear that she remained highly skeptical about her mother's true intentions and wished her a goodnight. Dillard agreed to go, upset that Johnson only called her mother, and not mummy which she used to do.
Hunt for the Money
Having returned into her Brownstone, Dillard was eventually rejoined by Shades and Comanche, only to be immediately told that they had another problem. Shades informed Dillard that they had to end their negotiations with Arturo Rey III, with Dillard quickly realizing that he meant that they had murdered him, much to her horror as she demanded to know why it happened, as Comanche explained that Rey III threatened to expose them and so they were forced to kill him.
Dillard had then questioned if Shades was able to get all their money first, only to realize that he had not, before Dillard demanded to know what they were thinking, with Shades explaining that Comanche was right that Rey III had threatened to talk to Misty Knight and so he had to die. While Dillard insisted that they needed the money, Comanche noted that they always had Nigel Garrison or Cockroach Hamilton to consider selling to, as well as the Jean-Michel Basquiat painting that could still be sold, although that only angered Dillard, who demanded that Comanche leave, furiously that he would talk to her so directly.
Once Comanche had left, Shades insisted that he would handle him, before noting that he had been right that they could still make a deal with Garrison or Hamilton, although Dillard insisted that these were both bad options for the future of Harlem if they were allowed to buy their guns. Shades then confessed that he knew they had messed up by killed Rey III, but insisted that he could never allow Rey III to go to the New York City Police Department and take Dillard down, while he promised that he would still get their money to Piranha Jones on time to make the deal for Atreus Plastics, which had reassured Dillard.
Return of Tilda Johnson
While Dillard had listened to Gary Clark Jr.'s performance in Harlem's Paradise, she was then rejoined by Shades, who had sat down with her and explained that the Yardies had reached out to him, and were willing to buy their guns. When Dillard questioned if it had been Nigel Garrison who had set up the deal, Shades explained that it had actually been Bushmaster who had taken charge of the deal for their guns, while jokingly noting that he could barely understand the Yardies most of the time.
Dillard had then asked what they would need to do about Cockroach Hamilton, to which Shades told her to forget about him and focus on the Yardies. As Dillard also noted that the Jamaicans would not have the same amounts that Arturo Rey III was offering them, Shades just reassured her that they would have enough and they could make up the rest of the money themselves before Dillard took hold of Shades' hand for comfort. While Dillard and Shades discussed their deal, they overheard Comanche stopping someone from coming over, as Dillard noticed that it was Tilda Johnson and told Comanche to let her in.
Dillard questioned what Johnson was doing in the club, to which she noted that she believed that all Dillard's pain was real, and explained that she would give Dillard one last chance to rebuild the relationship, while also calling her mummy again, much to Dillard's delight. While Dillard and Johnson hugged, Comanche had confirmed that she was welcome, and Dillard then introduced Shades and Comanche to her daughter. Dillard then requested that Shades and Comanche give her some time alone with her daughter, which Shades had agreed to, as Dillard and Johnson had then watched Clark Jr.'s performance.
Mother and Daughter Time
Dillard invited Tilda Johnson into coming to her Brownstone for some food, where Johnson played a song with the keyboard, while Dillard watched on. When Johnson stopped, Dillard noted how the daughter had a talent that she never had. When Johnson just claimed the skills came from her father, Dillard insisted that he could never play that well, insisting that these talents that she had, came from the Stokes side of their family, commenting that this was Cornell Stokes' keyboard, as Johnson apologized for playing it without permission.
However, Dillard insisted it was alright, explaining that Cornell got the keyboard from Mama Mabel, but claimed that now it was Johnson's. With that, Dillard invited Johnson to sit for some food, before noticing that Johnson appeared to be awkward, as she asked what she was thinking about. Johnson then explained that she had not eaten in this house since she was ten, noting on how she remembered Cornell as he played on their keyboards and Mama Mabel yelling, which Dillard laughed at. However, Johnson also noted how she had heard several other voices in the house, and rooms she was not allowed to enter.
Dillard listened while Johnson noted how she recalled finding bloody towels in the trash, before noting how their family had always been dark. However, Dillard insisted that it was hard to find any family that did not have dark corners, before insisting that they could now move past that history, which Johnson agreed with as she claimed that she was at least going to try to. Before they could continue to eat, Dillard and Johnson then noticed that Shades had entered the Brownstone, as he watched them eating, before Dillard then asked to be excused before pulling Shades into the hallway for a private conversation.
Dillard had confronted Shades for coming there unexpectedly before he explained how Luke Cage found Cockroach Hamilton, resulting in him being arrested by the New York City Police Department, although he was currently recovering from a brutal beating within the hospital. While Dillard reminded Shades of how they needed all of their money to make the deal with Piranha Jones, as she began questioning who was left who they could make their deal with, as Shades pointed out that Nigel Garrison from the Yardies, was the last remaining potential buyer for them to sell the guns and complete the deal with Piranha.
Dillard immediately ordered Shades to travel to Brooklyn in order to complete the deal, only for Shades to become annoyed by how she was speaking to him, pointing out that he was not her own personal assistant, but her partner, as well as her lover. Unwilling to have this discussion, however, Dillard simply responded by licking Shades' lip and mocking him over his wish to talk about all his personal feelings. Dillard then returned to eating her lunch with her daughter, while the now irritated Shades then went to Brooklyn in order to make the deal with the Yardies, in order to finally sell their illegal gun business.
Fundraiser in Harlem
- "Family first, always, no matter what, no matter how complex. In fact, I am absolutely thrilled to have my daughter with us today, Dr. Matilda Maybelline Dillard. Family is a blessing, and no mothers should ever have to do it alone, with your help and your dollars, our Family First Initiative will ensure that all of our complexes uptown, where we take care of our own, no mother will ever have to. Family first, always. Harlem first, always."
- ―Mariah Dillard[src]
Dillard attended a fundraiser at the Studio Museum in Harlem, as she spoke to some of the attendees, making her comments about Barack Obama to charm the guests. While Dillard made her way through space, she thanked some other guests for turning up, while ensuring that she got the donations she had needed, before she saw that Tilda Johnson had arrived and was speaking to Alex Wesley, as Dillard had asked if Wesley was taking good care of her daughter, which Johnson confirmed that he was. Wesley excused Dillard and Johnson, as Dillard welcomed her daughter and had then invited her to get a better drink.
As the event continued, Dillard had thanked more people for coming, before she asked Wesley if Mark Higgins had arrived, as Wesley then confirmed that Higgins was speaking with Piranha Jones, but spent a lot of that time looking at Stephanie Miller, as Dillard noted that Miller was extremely capable, while also referring to her by the name Billie. Wesley then questioned where Shades was, to which Dillard claimed that he was where he needed to be. Dillard noted that they needed to control Higgins, as Wesley confirmed that Miller had invited him back into Harlem's Paradise for some drinks, much to Dillard's delight.
Dillard then took to the stage to give her speech to the attendees, as she told them of how Mama Mabel had also believed in stepping up for people in need, considering it to be her privilege. Dillard explained that their Shirley Chisholm Complex would include new child-friendly services, in order to inaugurate their Family First Initiatives, getting a round of applause for that, much to Dillard's delight. Dillard had then claimed that she also planned to help mothers across Harlem to raise happy and successful children through their complexes, claiming that it would take a mother's touch to make these services special.
Dillard went on to claim that this project was personal for her, telling the crowd about how she had once met one dashing man at Howard University, who had just graduated from Howard Medical School, as she then noted how she had fallen in love with this man, despite the disapproval of her family due to their age gap. Dillard told their group that this man was Jackson Dillard and they had then eloped together before Jackson had gone off to Central America into providing medical services and training in Nicaragua. Dillard explained that she learned that she was pregnant the day that Jackson was shot and killed.
Gaining the crowd's sympathy, Dillard went on the explain that when her daughter, Tilda, was born, was had soon realized that she was ill-equipped to raise her alone, claiming to have swallowed her pride as she returned to New York City, where Mabel had welcomed her back, noting Mabel's motto of Family First. Dillard introduced the crowd to Tilda, gaining another round of applause. Dillard then claimed that a family was a blessing and that no mothers should ever have to do it alone, requesting the donations to ensure that the complex could be completed and the Family First Initiative could come to reality.
Blackmailing Mark Higgins
Having returned to Harlem's Paradise, Dillard had become distracted while she was being asked by Piranha Jones if she had saved any of the fragments of bullets which had bounced off Luke Cage, as Dillard had noted that Jones was beginning to sound like he was a big fan of Cage, which Jones did not deny. The pair were then interrupted by the arrival of Mark Higgins, who came into Dillard's office applauding her recent speech and noting that Thelma Golden had already been raving about it, noting that Dillard had just outdone herself.
Dillard then claimed that helping people had always brought her joy before she noted that joy was not free. To prove this point, Stephanie Miller then entered the office and presented Dillard with an envelope containing the images of Higgins and Miller's sexual encounter, with Dillard commenting on which of these images she liked. Higgins had questioned if Dillard wanted money in exchange for not releasing the images, attempting to comment on how Cindy Higgins would react, although Dillard made it clear that she did not care about this, telling Higgins that she did not want his money, but a vote of confidence.
Asking Jones and Miller to leave the room, Dillard had then informed Higgins that she wanted her piece, before explaining that she knew that Atreus Plastics was up for acquisition by Glenn Industries, while she informed Higgins that she was about to purchase twenty million dollars worth of their stocks, as Dillard told Higgins that she needed him and the rest of the board to vote to approve their deal. However, Higgins made his disapproval of this deal clear, as he did not want a historically black-owned company to be taken over by the white men, although Dillard insisted that he would have no choice but to sell it.
Dillard warned Higgins that if he refused, she would put these images of him and Miller online, noting that she also had a video of their sexual encounter. However, they were then interrupted as Tilda Johnson had made her way past Alex Wesley to then enter the office, telling Dillard that she had just come there to say goodnight as she had missed her leaving the fundraiser. Dillard had introduced Higgins to Johnson, as she claimed that Higgins would soon be bankrolling their Family First Initiative, only for Higgins to dump the folder of images onto Dillard's desk and walk out of her office, leaving Dillard and Johnson alone.
Once they were alone, Johnson noted how Dillard had put her on the spot during her speech at the Studio Museum in Harlem, with Dillard then claiming that she did not mean to make her feel uncomfortable. However, Johnson insisted that she be allowed to finish her point, as she claimed that these emotions were not her area of expertise, and she struggled to let anybody in but claimed to be surprised to have actually felt that she had believed Dillard during her speech. Johnson apologized for not having faith in her mother, to which Dillard told her that she would have no idea how much that statement had meant.
Dillard then invited Johnson to sit with her, as she told her that every family had dark memories, claiming that she had always tried to bring the Stokes' back into the light. Dillard noted that they had lost a lot of time over the years, but they would now be able to make up for it all. However, they were then interrupted when Wesley allowed Shades to enter the office while carrying two large bags. Wanting to know what Shades had for them, Dillard had told Johnson to leave and promised that she would stop into Mother's Touch the following day to see her, as she then had Wesley take Johnson out of Harlem's Paradise.
Once they were alone, Dillard watched Shades open up the bags, revealing the cash that the Yardies had paid for their entire gun business, with Shades noting that they had overpaid for this. Dillard squealed in delight and noted her surprise that Nigel Garrison had so much money, while Shades explained that Bushmaster had actually taken over their deal. Ecstatic at finally getting all their cash, Dillard claimed to not care which Jamaican had paid them, as long as they had the money, as she called Jones to make into her office so that they could complete their deal to buy up Atreus Plastics from Higgins, kissing Shades during their moment of joy.
- "We have three hundred and fifty million dollars, we are done with this shit."
"What if this shit ain't done with us? I don't think Bushmaster is in Harlem for Luke Cage, I think he's in Harlem for you."
"Probably some old beef with Cornell."
"No, no, this goes deeper than Cornell, baby."
- ―Mariah Dillard and Shades[src]
Delighted by finally completing the deal for force Mark Higgins to sell up Atreus Plastics to them, Dillard invited Piranha Jones to Harlem's Paradise, where they drank and discussed how they had managed to make it appear as though their merger had been Higgins' idea. Jones then explained to Dillard that their twenty million dollar investment, was already worth three hundred and fifty million dollars, as he promised that it would continue to grow, as Dillard had told Jones that she felt abuzz with the possibility.
However, Shades then questioned what would happen next, to which Jones assured him that there were only minor details that they should not worry about yet, although Shades continued insisting. Witnessing this, Dillard questioned what was wrong, to which Shades noted that she and Jones were drinking at ten in the morning, while they talked about the money that did not actually exist yet. However, Jones claimed that they did not want to touch this money, promising that their cash was in the Cayman Islands, where it would be safe, promising that he would be able to protect them from any government investigations.
While Jones explained how he would protect them, he commented on how Dillard had also put up Harlem's Paradise as part of the trust fund, much to Shades' shock, while Dillard explained that they had to make it appear as though Harlem's Paradise as collateral for a loan to invest, which covered the money they were making on the streets. Before they could continue, Comanche burst into their office and put on their television, much to Dillard's annoyance for their interruption. However, Dillard then saw footage of Luke Cage getting beaten down by Bushmaster, as Comanche celebrated Cage being humiliated.
Before long, the footage which D.W. Griffith had shot of Bushmaster beating down Cage went viral and Shades went to speak with Dillard about it, although Dillard insisted that Comanche was not allowed to also be in the room during their meetings. Although Shades still tried to stand up for him, Dillard warned Comanche to never bust into her office again or she would cut off his testicles and roll them like dice. As Comanche continued to mock Dillard by asking if she would blow on them, she demanded back up as Shades told him to leave, before she questioned Shades about what was so important to discuss.
Once they were alone, Shades told Dillard that Bushmaster was the same man who took over the Yardies, commenting that Bushmaster appeared to be planning to take control over Harlem, although Dillard remained unconvinced. However, Shades explained that in one of the bags of cash, they found Nigel Garrison's head, claiming Bushmaster was sending a message by beating down Cage, questioning why he needed all the guns if he could take down Cage with his bare hands, suggesting that he wanted to weaken them, although Dillard insisted that with the three hundred and fifty million dollars, they were out.
However, Shades claimed that the conflict might not actually be done with them yet, suggesting that Bushmaster had not come to Harlem for Cage, but had come there for her. As Dillard had still claimed that Bushmaster likely had some old beef with Cottonmouth, Shades had insisted that it all had to go much deeper than Cottonmouth, noting Dillard's reaction to Bushmaster's name, as he then asked to be told everything so he could protect her. However, Dillard only told Shades about the Bushmaster Rum that her grandfather had started up years earlier, as she still dismissed Shades' concerns about Bushmaster.
Dillard instead told Shades to focus on continuing to unload the rest of their gun inventory, intending to leave that part of their lives behind them. Dillard had then told Shades that they could now make a new history for themselves, suggesting that they could go to Monte Carlo or Dubrovnik, telling him that they could forget about their pasts and focus only on their future. When Dillard asked Shades if they wanted that future, he had told her that he was willing to burn in Hell for her before she suggested that he stay hot for later on before Shades left Harlem's Paradise to unload the rest of their guns for Dillard.
Advice from Comanche
While she was inside of her office, Dillard looked out of her window at Harlem's Paradise, watching Shades talk with Comanche, seeing Comanche sharing his joke with Shades until he walked away. Once Shades was gone, Comanche had looked up at Dillard's window, as he noticed that she was watching him. While Dillard worked, Comanche came into her office with coffee, noting that Alex Wesley had told him to bring it, while Dillard told him to leave it on her desk.
As Comanche did not leave immediately, Dillard questioned if he had spat into the coffee before asking if he had something that he wanted to say to her. Comanche then told Dillard that Shades had told him all about their deals with Piranha Jones to buy out Atreus Plastics, as he suggested that he could help there, explaining that he had read up a lot about their stock markets while he was in Seagate Penitentiary, to which Dillard had just mockingly questioned if he had done that time with Bernie Madoff. However, Comanche told Dillard that she should reconsider trusting Jones, questioning if she knew what he did.
While Dillard insisted that Jones had made more money for her than anybody else in the history of their Stokes Crime Family, Comanche told her that he was merely saying that there was a good chance that she was being scammed by Jones. Unconvinced by these warnings, Dillard told Comanche to leave her office immediately, only for him to lean in closer and warned that he was not afraid of Dillard. However, Dillard simply looked straight into Comanche's eyes and told him that he should be afraid of her, which clearly unnerved him as he then left the office, with Dillard considering these warnings about Jones.
Despite her dismissal of him from her office, Dillard still considered Comanche's warning about what Jones' true intentions could be with her money. While Christone "Kingfish" Ingram had rehearsed on their Harlem's Paradise stage, Dillard remained inside of her office as she looked over the Stokes' Family scrapbooks. As she had looked over all of these images, Dillard eventually found an old article by the New York Bulletin, which featured Buggy Stokes and Quincy McIver, while they were unveiling their Bushmaster Rum at Harlem's Paradise, as Dillard then considered what connections Bushmaster might actually have to the Stokes family and his reason for coming to Harlem.
- "Must not have been that important. You know history remembers queens and kings, not the flunkies."
"You hear dat? Di talking blues. Those are di ancestors you hear, dey remember. Yuh cyaan erase di past, yuh cyaan burn it away. That's di spell on you. That's magic. Science in its purest form."
- ―Mariah Dillard and Bushmaster[src]
While Dillard was watching Christone "Kingfish" Ingram performing at Harlem's Paradise, she had noticed that Bushmaster had arrived into their club, as he then made his way through the club until he reached Dillard's balcony. Greeting him, Dillard had noted that she would have expected Bushmaster to be taller before she offered up her hand, which Bushmaster reluctantly shook. Dillard then offered Bushmaster to drink, as she took out some Bushmaster Rum for them.
While she poured the rum for them, Dillard told Bushmaster that she wanted to thank him for taking down Luke Cage, calling this a public service for Harlem, as she claimed that she would be sad to see him returning back to Jamaica, although Bushmaster claimed that Harlem was beginning to feel like home, and so he planned on staying for a while. Bushmaster then noted the craftsmanship that had gone into Harlem's Paradise, questioning if they had recently renovated it, with Dillard then noting that they had no choice due to the fights between Cage and Diamondback. Bushmaster then asked if Dillard knew who designed the bar and interiors, as Dillard claimed to have no idea.
Dillard had explained that Buggy Stokes had it built in the 1960s, as Bushmaster questioned if he had a partner, to which Dillard claimed that they had several partners, claiming that Mama Mabel and Pistol Pete were their main partners. Bushmaster then questioned if Dillard had ever heard the name Quincy McIver, which she denied, claiming that it must not have been important, noting that history remembered the kings and queens, but not the flunkies. In response, Bushmaster then told Dillard to listen closely to Kingfish's music, calling it singing blues and that it was their ancestors who remembered the history.
Bushmaster then told Dillard that she could not erase the true history of her family, or simply burn it away, telling her that it was a spell that was on her, although Dillard denied understanding what he meant, as Bushmaster had claimed that she should be able to understand what he was talking about. Changing the subject, Bushmaster smelled the rum, noting how it was smooth and specific, as Dillard had noted that it was impossible to buy, while Bushmaster noted that there had only been two men who knew their true recipes, and they were both dead, to which Dillard claimed that some things were better left dead.
As he took a drink of the rum, Bushmaster told Dillard that her guns, that he had recently bought from them, would serve the Yardies well, before claiming that it was a pleasure doing business with her. As he left, Bushmaster incorrectly referred to Dillard as Stokes, as she had furiously corrected him that her name was Dillard, calling Bushmaster a bitch, while she also threatened him to call her a Stokes one more time, as Shades and Ray Ray stepped up to protect her. Bushmaster instead told Dillard to enjoy her remaining time on the top of their hill, warning that life was precious before he walked out of the club.
Looking Around the Clinic
Dillard had met with Tilda Johnson outside of their brand new Shirley Chisholm Complex, as Johnson was taken there by Alex Wesley, with Johnson expressing her great surprise at seeing her mother there, as their event was scheduled for that evening, although Dillard explained that she had asked Wesley to bring her there earlier. Dillard explained that she wanted her daughter to get her private tour, as she asked Wesley to remain outside and ensure that no press came in.
Taking her inside, Dillard had excitedly shown Johnson some of their portraits of famous black women that were hung inside their hallway, including Sojourner Truth and Mary McLeod Bethune, as Dillard had claimed that you did not actually need to be bulletproof to become a superhero, making a clear reference to Luke Cage, as Dillard claimed that black women had always had superpowers. Dillard told Johnson how these women had turned pain into progress, before comparing them to Mama Mabel, which greatly surprised Johnson, while Dillard continued by claiming that this had all been Mabel's dream.
Dillard then began to excitedly explain her plans for the clinic, telling Johnson about the layouts, and what she intended to include there, promising that it would all be in service to help any young and single mothers in Harlem. Dillard told Johnson that the clinic would be their centerpiece of the Family First Initiative, only for Johnson to note the irony of Dillard building a foundation for women to protect the legacy of Mama Mabel, who Johnson then called Harlem's biggest madam. As Johnson reminded her about everything that Mabel did, to exploit women, Dillard simply demanded that Johnson not disrespect her.
Dillard had then noted that their family's fortune had been born within the whorehouse, but simply dismissed this by noting that jazz was as well. Dillard claimed that Mama Mabel had empowered women who could not protect themselves, commenting on how Mabel and Buggy Stokes had also fought against their white gangsters that wanted to re-enslave Harlem. Dillard insisted that while Johnson wanted to talk about what they had come from, she had wanted to talk about what they were actually made of as black women while insisting that they should focus on their bright future, rather than their painful past.
Dillard had then noted that this clinic would all be free of any charge, before telling Johnson that she would be her first choice to become their medical director, much to Johnson's shock. However, Johnson made her reluctance clear, then commenting that she would not like to heal people while using bloody money, only for Dillard to comment on how her deal with Atreus Plastics had resulted in her large supply for cash from their company being sold onto Glenn Industries, as she promised to put that money back into Harlem, and doing the best for Harlem's future, once again requesting Johnson's help to do this.
Once Dillard and Johnson had walked out of the clinic, Dillard spoke to Wesley about how pleased she was to see that several members of the press had already started to arrive, with Wesley then explaining that Thembi Wallace had already requested a sit-down interview with Dillard, although Dillard insisted that Wallace would have to wait for an interview like everybody else. However, Wesley simply suggested that Dillard should play nice with Wallace, and noted how everybody would like a comeback story involving her, as Dillard insisted that her interview should be live so it would not be buried by Jimmy Kimmel.
Wesley then questioned if Johnson had agreed to their suggestions, just as Johnson came out of the clinic, with Dillard commenting that she was still unsure. As Wesley then stepped back, Dillard reminded Johnson of the offer, while noting how she would love to be able to announce it for their press, although Johnson reminded her that she still had to run Mother's Touch, although Dillard noted that Johnson could hardly keep the lights on in there. However, Johnson noted that the shop was still hers, and she had built it from the ground up while noting that this was more than Dillard could say about the clinic.
While Johnson had then commented on how she was still struggling to learn to trust her mother again, they were then interrupted by the arrival of Mark Bailey and Nandi Tyler, with Dillard greeting them with a smile before mockingly commenting on where they would be able to buy donuts from. However, Bailey informed Dillard that they were actually looking for a friend of hers, showing the photograph of Mark Higgins and asking if she knew where he was. Dillard explained that Higgins was one of her biggest donors, claiming that he was likely at home with his wife, as Tyler then explained that he was missing.
Offering from Shades
Dillard returned to Harlem's Paradise, where she found Shades while he was giving his orders to several of their henchmen, as Dillard had interrupted them while they were discussing what had happened with Ray Ray. Dillard dismissed the men so she could speak with Shades alone, with him noting that they needed to get Dillard out of New York City, with Dillard suggesting Paris or Milan, although Shades made it clear that their situation with Bushmaster was more serious.
However, Dillard simply dismissed Bushmaster's threats, noting that his money was still good and their mergers with Atreus Plastics was successful. When Shades noted that there could soon be more blood in the streets, Dillard noted that there would always be blood on the streets of Harlem, but insisted that due to their Family First Initiative, they would be untouchable. Once Dillard commented that her legacy was protected, she suggested that Shades should consider his own legacy, to which Shades noted that his legacy was right there, inside of their club, as he asked Dillard to sell Harlem's Paradise to him.
Shades told Dillard that Harlem's Paradise was the only thing that connected her with their life of crime, telling her that if she sold it to him, then that would prove that she really wanted to be freed of that life. However, Dillard refused to sell the club to Shades, claiming that this was not the right time. With that, Shades informed Dillard that he would attend Piranha Jones' party to ensure he did not turn reckless and mess up their deal, although Dillard insisted that she had known Piranha since he was twelve years old, and reassured Shades that he would be alright, despite him partying hard after he did his work.
As Shades claimed to not trust Piranha, Dillard noted that he did not trust anyone, although Shades insisted that he trusted her. Changing their subjects, Dillard told Shades about how Mark Bailey and Nandi Tyler had come up to the Shirley Chisholm Complex to tell her about how Mark Higgins had gone missing. Shades confirmed that he did nothing to Higgins, while he assured Dillard that they did not need to worry, before kissing her and leaving to attend Piranha's party, while Dillard watched him leaving Harlem's Paradise, before then checking her bank details on her phone, confirming her millions of dollars.
Tilda Johnson's Rejection
While Dillard was in her offices in Harlem's Paradise, she was visited by Tilda Johnson, as Dillard then questioned why Johnson had not changed her clothes before their event. However, Johnson informed Dillard that she would not be attending their opening for their Shirley Chisholm Complex, much to Dillard's surprise, as Johnson noted how Dillard had lied to her, as well as lying to both Mark Bailey and Nandi Tyler, noting how Dillard spoke to Mark Higgins in her office.
Dillard then simply claimed that her conversations with Higgins had been private and the New York City Police Department did not need to know about them, only for Johnson to comment over how Dillard still continued to claim that they were family, as she demanded that Dillard tell her everything, or she would walk away, as Johnson also noting how she had been doing fine without Dillard in her life. Finally, Dillard confessed to Johnson that she blackmailed Higgins to gain control over Atreus Plastics, claiming that Higgins never put his cash back into Harlem and was easily manipulated due to his desires.
Dillard explained that she used Stephanie Miller to seduce Higgins as Dillard had their sexual encounter videotaped, resulting in Higgins handing his company over to Dillard to stop the video being released. Dillard insisted that the stock was purchased legally, using the money gained from selling the Stokes Crime Family's gun businesses to the Yardies. As Johnson expressed her regrets that all their money came from guns, Dillard noted that their family's money had always been coming from gambling, prostitution, and guns, but insisted that it was never from drugs, telling Johnson that she was okay with this.
Dillard then told Johnson how Mama Mabel had become the ghetto philanthropist, while Cottonmouth had always financed her political campaigns, resulting in Dillard becoming a legitimate philanthropist. However, when Johnson accused her mother of being a crook and a liar, Dillard snapped back, insisting she served Harlem, and was now willing to do whatever it took, to ensure their protection. Dillard then accused Johnson of making shady deals with Mother's Touch, which Johnson denied, insisting she wanted to do no harm, as Dillard then insisted that her doing harm ensured a greater good for Harlem.
Dillard had then explained that they needed the money to open their complex, as well as to fund their Family First Initiatives, commenting that Johnson could help her to clean up the money and their legacy for the future of Harlem, calling Johnson the healer and asking her to heal their situations. However, Johnson instead asked where Higgins was, as Dillard simply insisted that she had not seen him since he left her office the other night. Dillard once again insisted that she wanted her daughter with her to reap their harvests she had planted, only for Johnson to walk out of her office, much to Dillard's frustration.
Despite Tilda Johnson refusing to join her, Dillard still went ahead in the grand opening for their Shirley Chisholm Complex, as she happily greeted all of the public and press who had come there. Dillard told the crowd that the complex was a new beginning, noting how hard it could be to start over and noting that they would do it together. However, just as Dillard was saying this, she noticed that Johnson had decided to turn up, which had delighted Dillard, telling the crowd the Harlem would still rise up once again, which she always did.
With that, Dillard then cut the ribbon to open their complex, and said her family's motto of the family first. As their crowd clapped, Dillard then happily invited them inside to inspect the complex. However, as soon as Dillard opened the doors, she was instead greeted by a horrifying sight of the cut off heads of Mark Higgins, Cockroach Hamilton, and Ray Ray, that had been left on top of spikes inside of the entrance to the complex. While Dillard reacted in horror and disgust, Alex Wesley had desperately attempted to get the press to move away while they had still continued to take pictures of the utterly horrible sight.
Questioned by the Police
In the wake of Bushmaster's violent revenge at the Shirley Chisholm Complex, Dillard was taken to the 29th Precinct Police Station where she was left inside of the interrogation room for over an hour, waiting for somebody to take her statement about what had happened during the opening of her complex. Eventually, Dillard was joined in their interrogation room by Tom Ridenhour, as Dillard complained about having to wait, as Ridenhour apologized for the inconvenience.
Ridenhour simply insisted that Dillard would be protected inside their police station, unlike in the streets of Harlem, telling her to relax since she was merely the witness to a crime, claiming that nobody believed that she was responsible for this. However, Dillard had noted that she could still tell when Ridenhour was lying, due to his smile, with Dillard commenting that she was no longer that shy little girl, who Ridenhour had held hands with while they were at school, before Ridenhour met and married Karla. Dillard had then questioned if she was allowed to leave, which Ridenhour confirmed, although he asked one question.
Ridenhour informed Dillard that, around the same time they found the severed heads, they got reports of gunfire at Piranha Jones' party, as these shooters were attempting to kidnap Jones. Having presented a photograph of Dillard and Jones together, Ridenhour noted that Luke Cage was also at the party and might have rescued Jones, as Dillard demanded to know if he succeeded, only for Ridenhour to note that Jones and Cage had been found yet. Ridenhour had then presented Dillard with photographs of the violence sweeping Harlem, as he had asked that Dillard tell him whatever she knew to stop the violence.
Taking a seat, Dillard had demanded protection for both her and Tilda Johnson, which Ridenhour agreed to in exchange for her information. Ridenhour had presented Dillard with the photographs of the severed heads, with Dillard confirming that Mark Higgins had attended one of her fundraisers, and Ray Ray had worked at Harlem's Paradise, with Dillard noting that she was aware that Ray Ray had a criminal record. Presented with Cockroach Hamilton's picture, Dillard remained silent, before claiming to not know Nigel Garrison nor Arturo Rey III, despite Ridenhour noting them recently being seen at Harlem's Paradise.
Dillard had still pleaded ignorance, also noting how popular Harlem's Paradise was, only for Ridenhour to not that all these men were now dead, and also noted that they knew about Dillard's gun deal, which she denied any knowledge of, while she also realized that this could only mean that she had a snitch in her organization. Ridenhour had then questioned if she really believed that Cottonmouth had prepared her for a life of crime, noting that Cottonmouth had brutally murdered multiple people, but always got rid of the bodies as he still feared the law, while he had also noted that the Stylers did not fear anything.
Having given her his clear warnings about what Bushmaster's people were capable of, Ridenhour then insisted to Dillard that if she did not cooperate there, then he would not be able to protect her, as Dillard sat in silence for the moment, as she considered what her best move would be. However, Dillard then rose up to her feet and collected her bag, before looking over all the photographs of all the men who had been murdered by Bushmaster, as she told Ridenhour that she would be fine on her own. With that, Dillard told Ridenhour that it had been good to see him again, before walking out of the police station.
Losing her Trust
Following her interrogation with Tom Ridenhour, Dillard had returned to Harlem's Paradise where she then immediately poured a drink for herself. Taking the drink, Dillard sat down and attempted to call Tilda Johnson, only to get her voicemail, as Dillard insisted that Johnson could not just ignore her and had demanded that she then call her back, making a point to say please in her message to Johnson. Dillard had then attempted to call Shades, only to get another voicemail, much to Dillard's fury as she threw the phone across the room.
Dillard was then joined by Alex Wesley, who apologized for disturbing her, only for Dillard to invite him inside as she requested that he pour her another drink, while inviting Wesley to pour himself a drink. Once they both had their drink, Dillard invited Wesley to cheers to trust and love, before cursing the concept. Dillard told Wesley that everybody that she ever loved had betrayed her, naming Mama Mabel and Pistol Pete, as well as Cottonmouth as some of the ones who had betrayed her trust. As Dillard claimed that Johnson had betrayed them, Wesley insisted that she did not mean that, which Dillard just scoffed at.
Dillard had noted that she needed them in the wake of Bushmaster's public revenge at their Shirley Chisholm Complex and they were not there, while Wesley tried to argue for Shades' loyalty, although Dillard simply cut him off, while pouring herself another drink, while she had mockingly commented on Shades' name and where he was instead of being by her side. Getting onto her feet, Dillard noted that if it was not for Luke Cage, then Piranha Jones, and everything that she had owned would be gone, while Dillard went on to note the irony, in the fact that her sworn enemy was the only person who she trusted.
Return of Shades
- "Every campaign I waged, was for my dreams for this community, Family First! I swore, I would take that hard-ass woman's mantra, and just make it into something good and beautiful, and it would wash away all of the violence, and the murder, and the hurt. Wash it away, and now the dream has exploded."
- ―Mariah Dillard to Shades[src]
While she paced up and down her office in Harlem's Paradise, Dillard was eventually joined by Shades, as she immediately called him out by noting that she had given him one job, although Shades insisted that she did not give him jobs, as they were partners. Dillard complained that everything she had built with the Family First Initiative was now gone, although Shades promised to get it back, while Dillard had broken down about failing to rebrand Mama Mabel's legacy.
Dillard then invited Shades to brag about being right about the threat that Bushmaster had posed to them, as she confessed that she had been too greedy to listen to him, noting that she sold her Harlem to Bushmaster. However, Shades then raised his voice and told Dillard that what was done, was now done, and it is was now time for them to take care of their enemies, as he had demanded that Dillard to listen to him carefully. Shades had then informed Dillard that he previously managed to follow Bushmaster all the way to Brooklyn, where he had discovered that Gwen's was where Bushmaster often spent time.
Shades noted that Bushmaster had friends, and potentially family in Gwen's who they could exploit, which had helped Dillard to refocus. Dillard then told Shades that they would wait until they got Piranha Jones back before getting their revenge. As Shades embraced and caressed her, Dillard had then questioned him about who else knew about Cottonmouth throwing Tone from their roof, which made him stop, as Shades claimed that only they and Turk Barrett knew about it, as even Joel Spurlock was not aware, although Dillard still did not explain why she was asking. With that, Shades left Dillard alone.
Searching for their Snitch
- "Somebody has been running their goddamn mouth. I hate nothing more, than a dirty-ass snitch. I'm with Ridenhour, I should be talking about heads on spikes, crying my eyes out, playing the victim. He's talking to me about Tone getting thrown off the roof and some shit that he's not even supposed to know about. Relationships are the only things that matter. I put a premium on loyalty."
- ―Mariah Dillard[src]
Dillard gathered her henchmen in her office in Harlem's Paradise, as she furiously demanded to know if any of these men knew where Piranha Jones was, and if Luke Cage still had him under his protection, or if Bushmaster had been able to take him away. Since none of the men were able to answer her, Dillard noted that this was not about all of their money, as she had known Piranha since they were children together, with Shades attempting had to assure Dillard that they were still searching everywhere.
Dillard then told her people that she knew that somebody had been snitching to the New York City Police Department, noting her hatred for snitches. Dillard told the men that she had been talking with Tom Ridenhour about all of those heads on spikes, when Ridenhour had commented on how Cottonmouth had thrown Tone off their rooftop, noting that Ridenhour should never have been aware of that. Dillard had then picked up a knife from her desk, commenting on how she relied on loyalty, which was something that Mama Mabel thrived off before she then brutally stabbing one of her men into the hand.
While her man moaned in agony, Dillard noted that Mama Mabel had taught her that pressure would reveal their truth, before telling them that she was loyal to her family, as she questioned if these men were still in her family. Dillard demanded that they locate Piranha, furiously ordering them out of her office, as Comanche, and then everyone else left Harlem's Paradise, leaving Dillard alone with Shades. Dillard told Shades that she was done with talking, as he had instead told her to listen to him closely, then telling her that causing fear within her men did not always inspire, but could actually alienate them from her.
Shades advised Dillard to be better than Cottonmouth, noting that if she was the same, she would always look over her shoulder. Shades kissed Dillard, who told him to get all the money back, which Shades promised that he would do, promising that they would bring Piranha back and defeat the Stylers so that everything would return back to normal. While Shades and Comanche left to deal with the Stylers and locate Piranha for her, Dillard watched Stephen Marley performing on their Harlem's Paradise stage, before seeing that Tilda Johnson had also arrived and was currently watching Marley's performance.
Return of Tilda Johnson
Dillard had invited Tilda Johnson to come up to her office, where she had listened while Johnson played on Cottonmouth's keyboard, with Dillard also noting how Cottonmouth used to play on that keyboard whenever he stepped into his office. Dillard asked Johnson if she was done running from her, to which Johnson claimed that she had not answered her calls because she needed more time, noting that she never asked to be involved with any of the violence she saw.
Johnson went on to tell Dillard that she did not need any of this mess that was being caused, suggesting that Dillard should just walk away from it all, only for Dillard to note how she used to say the same thing to Cottonmouth, noting that Cottonmouth was right when he used to say that it was not that simple. Dillard insisted that the Stokes Crime Family had built greatness out from nothing, and that nobody would push them away from that, as Johnson noted that she had changed her name from Stokes when she married Jackson Dillard, which had allowed her to escape from Mama Mabel's legacies of violence.
Dillard told her daughter that she did not know everything about her father, to which Johnson noted that she had been smart like him, and had the same desire for healing people, while using the Earth as they had intended, just like her father. In response, Dillard claimed that her name represented a choice and a new start but still insisted that she had loved Mama Mabel and the rest of the Stokes family, regardless of her decision to marry and change her surname. Dillard went on to claim that Mama Mabel was a hard woman who had prepared her for the world, before inviting Johnson to view something on her laptop.
Dillard had then shown Johnson her bank account, shocking hers over the huge amount of money that Dillard had, with Dillard noting that every sacrifice that Mama Mabel and Cottonmouth had made, had been for her, so that she would one day have something that she could pass down to Johnson, and then Johnson could pass it onto her own future children. While Johnson was still in a state of shock over the amount of money that they had, Dillard claimed that all this money would redeem all of that violence, caused by her family, as it would also redeem her for all the crimes she had committed.
Tom Ridenhour's Final Offer
While Dillard was in her offices in Harlem's Paradise, she was visited by Tom Ridenhour, who then informed her that they had discovered the severed head of Piranha Jones inside of a fish tank. While Dillard reacted with horror at the news of Piranha's death, Ridenhour noted that he suspected that they would find evidence of insider trading regarding her dealings with Atreus Plastics once they were done with their investigation into Piranha's files following his death, although Dillard did not react to this comment.
Ridenhour went on to note, that this would result with the SEC giving Dillard her light punishments, due to this being Dillard's first offense, and knowing that Benjamin Donovan would also provide her with an exceptional legal defense if she promised to return all of their money. However, Ridenhour noted that they would then look into how Dillard obtained her millions of dollars to invest into Mark Higgins' company, which could then prove that she had simply become involved with an even larger conspiracy, as Ridenhour then suggested that they could avoid this getting worse if Dillard agreed to make a deal with him.
Ridenhour suggested that Dillard should claim that she was coerced to this criminal life by Cottonmouth and Shades, which had resulted in her getting in over her head, promising that the public would stand behind her as the result. Ridenhour had then pushed Dillard to make a connection between Shades and Bushmaster, in exchange for her walking away, noting that this would result with them being arrested while Dillard could restart all her political campaigns. Ridenhour told Dillard of her choices, noting that she could live her life, looking over her shoulder for Bushmaster's revenge, or running from the police.
Dillard simply told Ridenhour to leave, while claiming it had been nice to see him, to which Ridenhour insisted that he still cared for Dillard, and did not want her to being hurt. Ridenhour had again insisted that she still had a chance to walk away, and not to die like Cottonmouth, recommending that she could still save herself and Tilda Johnson. In response, Dillard questioned what Ridenhour really knew about what Johnson and the rest of her family needed, to which Ridenhour noted that he knew Dillard almost died while giving birth and he questioned if Johnson knew her real age, while Dillard demanded he shut up.
When Ridenhour questioned if Johnson knew that Peter Stokes was her real father, Dillard screamed for him to shut up and leave, as he turned around to leave. However, Dillard had told Ridenhour to wait, asking for time to consider this, while asking him not to tell Johnson the truth, as Ridenhour gave her until next morning to decide. Once Ridenhour at left, Dillard logged onto her banking, only to learn that the Stylers had managed to steal all of her money. Horrified by this, Dillard called Alex Wesley to update him, while ordering him to bring Johnson up to her Brownstone before they would leave the city.
Once they were back inside her Brownstone, the terrified Dillard had closed all the curtains and demanded that Tilda Johnson stay away from their windows, ignoring Johnson as she continued to question what was happening. Dillard then got her updates from Alex Wesley about the situation, while she filled her bags with whatever cash she had left there and questioned where Shades currently was, to which Wesley then explained that he was dealing with something else and could not be contacted.
Dillard then ordered Wesley to go, before she collected their Stokes' Revolver, while Johnson questioned what they would need a gun for, noting that they now had all the money and that Bushmaster would leave their heads on pikes if they did not escape now. However, they were then interrupted when Bushmaster kicked down the front door, as Dillard spun around and had shot Bushmaster twice in the chest, which did not affect him at all, as Bushmaster merely smiled and had then disarmed her, while the Stylers brought in the corpses of two of Dillard's guards. Bushmaster then noted that he had met Johnson at the Mother's Touch, noting that he should have recognized her.
Dillard and Johnson were then tied down to their chairs in the middle of the Brownstone and watched helplessly while the Stylers poured gasoline around them. Bushmaster noted to Dillard that he had been imagining this moment in his head for a long time, claiming that this still felt sweeter than he imagined. Bushmaster then began telling the story of Buggy Stokes and Quincy McIver, commenting on how they had started as dishwashers, and built their empire together, creating both Bushmaster Rum and Harlem's Paradise, until the police arrived and attempted to destroy everything that they had built together.
Bushmaster then explained how Buggy had betrayed his father to the police in exchange for keeping the club, resulting in Buggy murdering Quincy, although Buggy was still shot in the stomach during the fight, and Buggy died five months later. Dillard then continued to listen as Bushmaster explained that his mother escaped to Kingston after his father's death, until the Stokes had finally managed to find them, as this resulted in Mama Mabel throwing a molotov cocktail made from Bushmaster Rum straight through his bedroom windows, resulting in his mother burning to death, which Dillard insisted was not true.
Dillard then witnessed Bushmaster taking his box of matches from Harlem's Paradise out of his pocket, as she desperately begged him not to burn them, insisting that he did not need to do this. However, Bushmaster instead chose to cut Johnson free, telling her that she could walk away and leave her mother to burn alone, or stay and try to save her. With that, Bushmaster then lit a match and set fire to all the gasoline, while Dillard furiously told Bushmaster to die, while the Brownstone erupted into flames. As their building burned, Johnson then came to her mother's aid, desperately trying to free her.
While Johnson struggled to free Dillard, who was beginning to lose consciousness due to the smoke, they were interrupted once Luke Cage smashed through the door, as he was able to swiftly free Dillard from her restraints and carried her out of the building, with Johnson following closely behind as the fire continued destroying everything. Once they got outside, Cage laid Dillard on the street corner, as she woke up and expressed her amazement that Cage had saved her life. While the New York City Police Department arrived, Dillard expressed her desire to hire Cage in order to protect her from Bushmaster.
Under Police Protection
Having been taken to the 29th Precinct Police Station, in the wake of the Destruction of her Brownstone, Dillard had drunk a cup of coffee, before she had been rejoined by Tilda Johnson. As she noticed that Johnson's hands were shaking, due to their traumatic events, Dillard comforted her daughter by wrapping her arms around her, as Johnson questioned how she was calm, to which Dillard noted that people always targeted their family because of who they were.
However, that statement only upset Johnson, who noted how Dillard had always said this, but she had never believed that it would lead to them almost being burned alive. As Johnson recommended that they tell the New York City Police Department just what had happened to them, Dillard insisted that they would not tell the police anything, and would instead handle their situation on their own, much to Johnson's shock. Dillard noted that what Bushmaster did to them would never be forgotten while claiming that the police would only complicate the situation, as them still being alive was all that had really mattered.
The pair were then interrupted with the arrival of Luke Cage, who just walked back out their room upon seeing Dillard, with Johnson noting that they were only alive because of Cage's heroic actions. Johnson then began to panic, as she insisted that if the police could not help them, they had to escape Harlem, before Bushmaster could discover they were still alive, only for Dillard to question where they would go, noting that their Brownstone was gone, and Bushmaster would likely be sitting inside Harlem's Paradise as they spoke, as Dillard had then begun muttering to herself, and questioning where they would go.
Dillard had then followed Cage into another room, as she questioned what he had said to Johnson, although Cage had simply noted that he did not work for Dillard. Dillard then reminded Cage that she had offered to hire him, although Cage noted that he had promised to get her to safety, and now the rest would be up to her. Once they noticed that Johnson was stood nearby, Cage questioned if she was okay, to which Dillard asked Cage if he had any children of his own. However, Cage took this as another threat, while noting that he still knew what Dillard was capable of, although she questioned why he saved her.
Sitting down, Cage claimed that he wanted to know why Bushmaster hated Dillard, as much as he did, while Dillard continued to deny any actual knowledge of Bushmaster, which annoyed Cage. Dillard then changed the subject, telling Cage that children mattered as they held their hopes and dreams, while also bloating out all the past mistakes, claiming that she would do anything to ensure Johnson safety, while Cage noted that Johnson. could do better than Dillard as protection. Dillard then asked Cage to protect Johnson, to which he questioned how he could do that if Dillard simply would not tell him the truth.
As Cage then suggested that he should protect Johnson from Dillard herself, they were interrupted by the arrival of Misty Knight, who had immediately ordered Nandi Tyler and Mark Bailey to put Dillard in the interrogation room. However, Dillard insisted that she was the victim in the situation, as she questioned if she was under arrest, as Knight confirmed that she was not, inviting Dillard to leave their protections, which Dillard refused to do out of a fear of Bushmaster finding her on the streets. Dillard had then asked what would happen with Johnson, to which Cage promised that he would look out for her for now.
Misty Knight's Interrogation
Dillard was then taken to the interrogation room, where she had been questioned about how Destruction of her Brownstone, as she simply claimed that it had been a home invasion, before noting that she was a victim. However, Misty Knight continued to doubt this story, noting that Dillard had been untouchable, to which Dillard claimed that these young criminals had no respect. When Knight had questioned what the attackers looked like, Dillard claimed they wore masks.
However, Knight noted how Dillard claimed there were two attackers, as she noted that Tilda Johnson that claimed there were three, while Dillard questioned when Knight had spoken to Johnson. Knight went on to question why these men had set fire to the Brownstone, noting that if they wanted to kill her they could have shot her, thrown her out of a window, or beat her to death with a mic stand, making her clear reference to Cottonmouth's murder. Knight simply claimed that they both knew who had burned down the Brownstone, as it was the men who had murdered Piranha Jones and stolen all of Dillard's money.
Knight told Dillard to name Bushmaster as her attacker, noting that if she did not, then more people would lose their lives, including Dillard. Annoyed, Dillard had demanded to speak with Tom Ridenhour, which angered Knight who demanded she not speak his name, while Dillard had claimed that she knew Ridenhour would be closely watching this interrogation behind their mirror. However, Knight then explained that Ridenhour had been shot and killed, while Dillard's Brownstone was burning down, presenting a horrified Dillard with crime scene photos, and explaining that Comanche had also been killed at the scene.
Dillard simply attempted to deny even knowing of Comanche's actual name, while Knight had noted that Comanche had been close friends with Shades, as Knight questioned if Shades would have known that Comanche was the rat, suggesting that Shades could also be talking to the New York City Police Department, with Knight giving Dillard a chance to give her side of the story before being taken down with the truth. However, before their conversations could continue, Benjamin Donovan burst inside the room with Shades, insisting that Dillard not say another word to Knight and leave their interrogation room.
However, as Dillard then tried to leave with Donovan, Knight claimed that she was withholding information, although Donovan claimed that she was the victim who was offering her full cooperation, despite the circumstances, as Donovan confirmed that Knight had no charges to hold her in there any longer. Before they could leave, Nandi Tyler had whispered something to Knight, resulting in them ordering Shades to stay behind, since his car matched the description of one seen at the scene of Ridenhour's murder. Dillard witnessed Shades getting taken away, as Donovan gone to defend him from these accusations.
Having left their interrogation, Dillard had then gone to find Johnson, who she found talking with Luke Cage, as Johnson questioned how her mother was now feeling, while Dillard insisted that Johnson stop speaking with Cage, worrying that they were flirting, with Cage also commenting on Dillard hooking up with Shades. Dillard then asked Cage how Claire Temple was doing, as Cage rose onto his feet and reminded her to never speak Temple's name again, although Dillard noting that she did not actually use Temple's name, as Dillard then mockingly questioned if Cage's temper had made her run away.
While Cage reminded Dillard that she could now leave, as she noted they would wait for Shades before leaving, only for Cage to question where she planned to go, knowing Bushmaster was still searching for her. However, Dillard confidently told Cage that she would simply go wherever she pleased, despite Johnson clearly being uncomfortable with their situations. However, while Dillard waiting for some time for Knight to finish their interrogation of Shades, regarding Ridenhour's murder, Donovan eventually stepped out on his own, claiming that he simply would no longer be representing either Dillard nor Shades.
Enraged by this, Dillard reminded Donovan of how Mama Mabel had spent a large amount of money to put him through law schools so he could always protect the Stokes Crime Family, as Donovan explained he was only loyal to Dillard's money and since she no longer had any, he no longer had any interest in protecting her. Donovan told Dillard not to make the situation harder than it needed to be, insisting that it was just business, as Dillard was left speechless while Donovan then simply walked out from the 29th Precinct Police Station, before Cage mockingly questioned if Dillard was having troubles in paradise.
Annoyed, Dillard claimed that she had changed her mind about hiring Cage as her protection, although he noted that they still needed him, despite neither of them like it. Cage then told Dillard that he would keeping her alive, until Harlem was safe from Bushmaster, promising that they would be on their own after that. Agreeing, Dillard had then attempted to leave the station, as Sugar asked if they should wait for Shades, which Dillard just denied. However, before they could leave, Cage noticed a car driving straight towards them, as Dillard escaped with Sugar, while Cage stopped the Stylers from shooting her.
Return to the Brownstone
- "Yes, yes, I'm scared! I got no home! I got no club! Bushmaster, cops, Luke Cage, everybody is up my ass! Yes, I'm scared, because it's over!"
"What's over? What are you gonna do? Gonna buy your little house upstate? You gonna buy a food truck? Look at me. The second you pushed Cornell through that window, you became a gangster."
- ―Mariah Dillard and Shades[src]
Dillard had then returned to the ruins of her Brownstone, as she was closely followed by Sugar. As a tearful Dillard looked around the ruins of her family's home, Sugar noted that his wife was around the same size as Dillard, offering to get her some new clothes. However, Dillard assured Sugar that she would be fine without his assistance, before he then stepped outside to give Dillard some time alone in her former home. Dillard then began searching for the Stokes' Revolver, moving the piles of rubble to find it.
However, before Dillard could find the gun, she was then interrupted by the return of Shades, who had just finally finished his interrogation at the 29th Precinct Police Station. As they stared at each other for a moment, Shades commented that she did not look happy to see him, with Dillard confirming that she was not. Dillard then claimed that the entire situation was his fault for bringing Comanche into their lives, to which Shades noted that he had taken care of that situation as soon as he found out, while Dillard had questioned why he would go to the police station after doing that, resulting in his brief interrogation.
Dillard had then accused Shades of being the snitch with Comanche, as she noted that he killed Tom Ridenhour and Comanche so that he could spin their situation any way that he wanted to, with Dillard then touching his chest to search for a hidden wire. However, Shades had then accused Dillard of actually abandoning him at the police station, claiming that she pulled Benjamin Donovan as his lawyer, telling her that he struggled not to break after killing Comanche and losing her. Dillard then explained that Donovan quit on his own due to her losing all of her money and so they could no longer pay Donovan's salary.
However, Shades took offense over Dillard suggesting that he should take responsibility for also paying Donovan, since he noted that they were standing in the ruins of their home, because of Dillard's actions. Shades went on to remind Dillard about how he had warned her back at Harlem's Paradise not to sell the gun businesses, since it had then resulted in the domino effect, that had resulted in Bushmaster taking power from them. Dillard began slapping at Shades, while he claimed that if she told her Jean-Michel Basquiat painting, none of this would have happened, before Shades questioned if Dillard was scared.
Dillard then admitted that she was indeed scared, noting that she no longer had her home or a club, while Bushmaster, Luke Cage and the entire New York City Police Department were now coming after her. However, when Dillard claimed it was over, Shades questioned what she meant, noting that the moment Dillard pushed Cottonmouth out of her window, she had become a gangster, as she questioned what a gangster should do. Shades then advised Dillard that Bushmaster believed he won, resulting in him becoming overconfident and would let his guard down, so they must be ready to target what he loved.
These promises that revenge would be possible and that they could reclaim their former position within Harlem, had finally helped Dillard to calm down, while Shades held her close and reassured Dillard that they could defeat Bushmaster and the Stylers together. Shades had then told Dillard that she was the Queen, before passionately kissing her, as Dillard embraced Shades, before taking one last look at these ruins of her former home, and walking away, giving up on being able to locate the Stokes Revolver in these ruins. Dillard had then decided to ensure Tilda Johnson was safe, before she getting revenge.
Having now gotten clean clothes from Sugar's wife, Dillard had then gone back to Mother's Touch, where she found Tilda Johnson as she was looking through her stock, with Johnson reacting with a tear at her mother's sudden arrival, without their invitation. Johnson had asked how she had gotten in, to which Dillard claimed that, as she was her mother, there was no door that Johnson had which she could not unlock, which Johnson merely scoffed at.
As Johnson continued packing her medicines, Dillard had questioned where she was going to, to which Johnson explained that she should have already escaped New York City, noting that Dillard should likely be going to a second Brownstone, only for Dillard to explain that she had nothing left, noting that she had borrowed clothes from Sugar's wife. Dillard then claimed that everything she had was gone, apart for Johnson, noting that she had nowhere to go and nobody whom she could trust. Johnson told Dillard that she needed to be far away from her mother, noting that it was time for her to start up fresh again.
As Dillard then claimed that she only had Johnson left, Johnson told her that she did not even have her, claiming that Dillard would tell the public one thing, as the truth would be something different. Johnson then noted that her mother had tossed her away when she was born, to which Dillard insisted that it was not true, as she told Johnson that she remembered everything about the day that she was born. Dillard explained that after twenty-two hours of labor, which almost killed her, before she was able to hold her daughter, for just that briefest of moments before Mama Mabel snatched her away from her arms.
Dillard went on to claim that this broke her heart to lose her daughter, as she noted that the worst part of the fire, was this thought that she might lose her daughter for a second time. Dillard then confirmed to Johnson that it had been Mama Mabel who split them apart, as she was sent to be raised by Mamie Johnson, while Johnson commented on her relationship to Mamie, who had always been there for her, but had still made Johnson keep her picture of Dillard, to ensure that she never forgot who her real mother was. Dillard informed Johnson that she was always loved, and had always remained in her heart.
Johnson had agreed to show Dillard something before she explained how she had some of her Nightshade to Bushmaster, which seemed to be the cause for his powers, as Dillard listened while Johnson had explained that once she had done more research, into exactly what Bushmaster had done with the Nightshade, then she could find some way to reverse those effects. However, they were then interrupted by a sudden arrival from Misty Knight and Nandi Tyler, as Dillard initially believed she would be arrested again, only for Knight to order her to get behind cover, while she and Tyler had then drawn their guns.
Dillard witnessed more of the Stylers pulling up outside the shop, as they burst in the shop and began shooting at them, while Knight and Tyler shot back at their attackers. Dillard and Johnson still remained behind cover, while the Stylers surrounded them, before Knight was able to subdue one Styler coming in from behind. Before the Stylers could keep shooting, Luke Cage had then arrived, and subdued the others by throwing one down the stairs and bouncing a bullet off his chest and into a Styler's leg, allowing Dillard and Johnson to escape with Knight and Tyler while all these Stylers had been subdued.
While Cage then kept a watch for any more of the Stylers coming to attack them, Dillard had demanded that they not wait for backup as Bushmaster's men would be coming for them, as Knight suggested they head back into the 29th Precinct Police Station, only for Cage to note that the Stylers would be waiting for them there. The group was then joined by James Lucas, while Dillard had claimed that there was nowhere safe for them to go where Bushmaster could not find them. However, Cage had suggested that they call up Danny Rand, as they now could call in their favor for Rand's help with the protection.
Hiding with Enemies
Dillard was then taken into the Rand Enterprises Research Facility, as she watched Luke Cage struggle to get them into the building, while questioning if anyone had followed them there, as Dillard suggested that Cage smash the glass to get them inside. While Cage continued trying to unlock the doors, as he struggled to remember what their code was, Dillard questioned how Danny Rand and Cage knew each other before Cage had then finally gotten the door open, as Misty Knight assured them that they would be safe in there for now.
As they looked around the facility, Dillard had once again questioned how Cage knew Rand, to which he mockingly claimed that they did hot yoga together. Dillard then heard James Lucas complaining that he had to do another service by the next day, only for Cage to warn him that Bushmaster would likely attempt to attack the Mount Olivet Baptist Church yet again, as Dillard claimed that Lucas was actually questioning what their plan was. As Cage insisted that they just had to survive that night, Knight then returned and claimed that the 29th Precinct Police Station would have been much safer for them all.
However, Dillard mockingly claimed that Knight must have lost a part of her brain with her arm, while noting that the officers at the Precinct would be more than willing to accept Bushmaster's reward for taking her down, noting that she was surprised that Knight had not tried to collect all of that money for herself, with Knight warning that she still could. As Tilda Johnson noted that she had to go into the bathroom, Dillard warned her not to go far, which annoyed Johnson. Lucas then suggested that their group pray together, resulting in Dillard mocking Lucas' faith, until Cage told her to shut up and show some respect.
Dillard had then reluctantly joined Lucas' prayer, as he told God that, while none of them were not perfect or innocent, they prayed for his help in keeping them safe from those who wished to do them harm, as Dillard and Knight shared a look of disdain for each other while the prayer continued. Once Lucas had finished up the prayer, Dillard had then questioned why Knight was looking up at their ceiling, to which Knight had mockingly claimed that she was waiting for the lightning bolt to come and strike Dillard down, noting that she had just prayed with the devil herself, as Dillard had merely scoffed at the insult.
Negotiating for her Deal
Dillard then spoke to Misty Knight and Luke Cage alone, as they then recommended that if she go onto their record against Bushmaster, by saying it was him who burned down her Brownstone, then they could have him arrested within an hour. Despite all this, Dillard still continued to refuse to work with the police, despite Knight reminded Dillard that she was now broke and the Stokes Crime Family were seemingly finished, meaning that her power was over. Cage noted that her family started the rivalry, and she could finish it by coming clean.
However, Dillard questioned if these police would actually be able to keep Bushmaster in their custody, noting that they had been unable to hold Cage, and Bushmaster had already beaten Cage with combat twice. Becoming annoyed, Cage noted that Dillard sold Bushmaster her Hammer Industries weapons, as he explained that each of these guns would have a charge for the illegal sale of them, claiming that if they took down Bushmaster without her help, then she would simply go down with him, unless she started talking, while he also reminded her that she only survived becoming burned alive because of him.
Seemingly considering it all, Dillard then demanded immunity, which Knight had merely scoffed at it, while Dillard insisted that she would only talk if she was promised immunity from any charges associated with the gun deal. However, Knight had insisted that she would never allow it all to happen, although Dillard noted that Cage seemed less sure that this would never happen. Despite Knight's objections, Cage noted that there was no possible way that Shades would be included in that deal, as Dillard had claimed that Shades would be able to take care of himself, telling Cage to ensure that the deal was done.
Following the brief awkward silence, Knight had then demanded that Dillard hand over her phone to her, which Dillard reluctantly gave to her. However, when Dillard had made her sarcastic comments, telling Knight to charge it on the way into the barn, and calling her a heifer, Knight briefly lost her patience, as she claimed that Dillard must have brain damage from all the smoke inhalation, while threatening to beat Dillard, regardless of being the cop, until Cage was able to pull Knight back, while Dillard simply walked away from the situation as it got heated, leaving Cage and Knight to then discuss their deal.
Discussion of Harlem
Dillard had then found the sofas to relax on, until she was then joined by Luke Cage, as Dillard mockingly questioned if Cage liked to watch women while they slept, only for Cage to insist he would never let her out of his sight. Dillard then claimed that Cage was not really half the protector that he claimed to be, to which Cage claimed that he did his best while she did her worst, while Dillard claimed to have done more for Harlem that he ever would, while Cage claimed that Harlem merely survived her.
Cage then noted that Cottonmouth had not survived Dillard, to which she told Cage that Harlem would never turn on her, because it loved her, insisting that Harlem would fight and die for her, as she had then insisted that she could actually elevate Harlem up to its new heights, while she had then questioned what Cage actually did for the city, as she called him nothing more than an overseer. Stepping over to him, Dillard insisted that Harlem did not need a hero, but needed a Queen, before walking away from him. Once Dillard had left, she left Cage to talk to Tilda Johnson, who had been watching this conversation.
Having managed to get out of sight of Cage, Dillard had then begun searching through all the hallways of the Rand Enterprises Research Facility, desperately seeking any way to contact their outside world, since Misty Knight had taken away her phones. Finding that the only phone there was disconnected, much to her annoyance, Dillard then continued searching, before she overheard James Lucas talking with Cage, as she kept herself out of sight, and listened closely to Lucas and Cage then discussing Cage's powers, as well as Cage's breakup with Claire Temple, as Dillard ensured she was not spotted there.
Talk with the Preacher
Since Luke Cage had stepped off, Dillard found James Lucas alone, as he had been looking out from the large windows of the Rand Enterprises Research Facility. When Dillard then questioned if Lucas could see anything outside, he then just told her that it was only rats. As Dillard took a seat, Lucas noted that he recognized her from the news, having seen reports on the Family First Initiative, noting that she was clearly trying to do something good, despite paying with money gained from her criminal activities.
Dillard acknowledged that this had seemed like a lifetime ago, noting that she could not even keep her own family together, as Lucas then noted that having any child was never easy. Dillard then told Lucas that she had not been there for Tilda Johnson while she was growing up, as she claimed that she believed she could make up for that lost time later in life. Lucas then confessed that, while he was there while Cage was growing up, back in Georgia, he had not really been there emotionally for him as a child, noting that they could only do the best that they could as the parent, which Dillard had simply smiled at.
Dillard then jokingly noted that she was struggling to image Cage as a baby, wearing diapers, as she asked Lucas if he had any pictures of this, which he agreed to show her as they shared the laugh about this. While Dillard laughed at pictures of Cage as a teenager, Lucas noted that he just tried to capture the good memories with all these pictures, noting that this helped them to forget the bad. Lucas then acknowledged that he had made a lot of mistakes while raising his son, as he and Dillard agreed that they did not know what they were doing, until they had done it, in regards to raising their children.
Lucas then went on to note that they could only do the best that they could for their children, and could then only pray that they figured out their own futures when the time came. Dillard then continued to listen on, as Lucas commented on Johnson, noting that she was the brave, intelligent, forceful, and dynamic woman and that she clearly had got that from her mother, as Dillard smiled and promised to watch Lucas' sermons at the Mount Olivet Baptist Church to hear more of his own insights. Dillard and Lucas briefly held hands, before Dillard then took advantage of him looking out of the window to steal his phone.
Confessions with Tilda Johnson
- "Pete was the only one that told me I was beautiful. He reminded me how smart I was. I loved him. Until he started sneaking into my room at night. I didn't want it. I had never wanted it. "Family first. Always." When Mabel knew? "No abortions!" The second you were born, the Johnsons would raise you."
- ―Mariah Dillard to Tilda Johnson[src]
Using that phone she had stolen from James Lucas, Dillard had then gone into one of the rooms, inside of the Rand Enterprises Research Facility, as she attempted to get into contact with Shades, desiring his reassurance, as well as his advice on how she should handle their situation. However, much to Dillard's frustration, Shades had failed to answer her call, as Dillard cursed before Tilda Johnson found her mother as she questioned who she had been attempting to call.
As Dillard admitted that she had tried to call Shades, Johnson smiled as she expressed her surprise that her mother had told her the truth, only for Dillard to insist she not attempt to antagonize her. However, Johnson questioned when the day would come when the truth would finally come out, asking when there would be a day where there were no heads on spikes, and no other surprises. However, Dillard turned the question on surprises back on Johnson, noting that customers at Mother's Touch were from the Islands, meaning that she did not have to set up her shop within Harlem, questioning why she had done it.
Johnson claimed that she had opened a shop in Harlem, as she had wanted to be home, and as she was noting that as Cottonmouth was dead, Dillard had interrupted by questioning if she thought that since Cottonmouth was the last of the Stokes Crime Family, then the curse of their family would end, claiming that she made that same mistake herself. Dillard then claimed that she once believed that, with the last man to hold the name Stokes dead, then only the name Dillard would remain, and all would be right in the world, only for Johnson to claim that her mother was the only one obsessed with the name Dillard.
Dillard claimed that the name was merely a fantasy, insisting that the name of Stokes was real, calling their blood a burden. Dillard went on to note that a lot more people had to die in order to make their family what it was, which Johnson scoffed at, as she claimed that it was the Dillards who were light-skinned and with good hair, while the Stokes were dark like mud, while also calling them violent and complicated. When Johnson suggested that this was why Dillard had always hated herself, Dillard laughed out loud, questioning if Johnson believed she simply hated the Stokes' name because of the color of their skin.
While Dillard claimed she did not know what she was talking about, Johnson had noted that she knew that Dillard had always viewed her as a disappointment and she had always tried to keep her away, only for Dillard to claim that Johnson had always brought her joy, as well as her deepest shame. The emotional Johnson had then questioned if this was because she was never a doctor like her father had been, or because she had not inherited his light skin and green eyes, only for Dillard to explain that Jackson Dillard was never Johnson's father, explaining that Jackson had been a gay man who she had loved.
Dillard went on to explain to Johnson how Jackson's family had been rich, and were so pleased that he was not gay, that they had chosen to overlook him marrying a black woman, also noted that they did not care that Dillard already had a child, determined to make any lie work to cover up their son's true homosexuality. Johnson had then begun to question if Dillard really met him while at Howard University, and if he was really killed by Contras, while in Nicaragua, only for Dillard to insist that all this had been the truth, promising that she always loved him, which was why she kept the name of Dillard after his death.
Dillard claimed that these lies had simply allowed Johnson to have a good father and a role model to look up to, only for Johnson to claim that Luke Cage was correct, that Dillard could not be trusted. Dillard claimed to be a survivor, only for Johnson to question if that was the reason she had murdered Cottonmouth, with Dillard then questioning if Cage had told her this, only for Johnson to ask if this was the truth. Briefly considering her next answer, Dillard told Johnson that it was indeed the truth, claiming that it was because of Cage that this had happened, as Cage's actions caused Cottonmouth to lose control.
Johnson then insisted that Cage had nothing to do with Dillard killing Cottonmouth, questioning why she would do that, until Dillard finally confessed that it was because Cottonmouth loved Pistol Pete more than he loved her. Dillard then began discussing Pete, explaining for Johnson about his charisma, noting how Pete was the only one who told her she was beautiful, while all children at school would call her Black Mariah, and would also remind her how smart she was. Dillard told Johnson that she had loved Pete, until he began sneaking in her bedroom and sexually assaulting her, which she never wanted.
Dillard commented on Mama Mabel's saying of "Family First," noting that as soon as Mabel had found out that Dillard was pregnant with Pete's baby, she had insisted that she not have an abortion, and they instead had Johnson sent over to Mamie Johnson to be raised by her instead. Dillard explained that she was already engaged to Jackson when Cottonmouth executed Pete, and Johnson was three years old when Mabel had her first stroke, allowing Dillard to see her daughter again. Dillard then recalled how, while they had been inside Harlem's Paradise, Cottonmouth had taunted her about being raped by Pete.
Dillard then detailed how she had struck Cottonmouth over the head with her bottle, pushed him out of the window, before beating him to death with the mic stand, for taunting her about all of that abuse she had suffered. Dillard insisted that she had never wanted all the abuse from Pete, before telling Johnson that she had never wanted to have her either, ignoring all Johnson's tears. Dillard confessed to Johnson that, although she tried to love her, she was always reminded of Pete and could not love her. As Johnson broke down into tears, she called Dillard a monster, only for Dillard to walk away from her daughter.
- "After all she's done, all the pain she's caused, the misery, the death. Why shouldn't I throw her through that window and give Bushmaster exactly what he wants? Tell me, Mariah, what would you do if the roles were reversed?"
"I would have thrown your ass to those dogs the minute they started barking."
- ―Luke Cage and Mariah Dillard[src]
As she walked into their main entrance, Dillard found Luke Cage was waiting for her with Misty Knight, as she was presented with the deal that she had requested, which had granted Dillard full immunity from the sale of her Hammer Industries guns. As Dillard looked over the documents, Knight pushed her to sign it, to which Dillard claimed that she wanted to savor the moment, noting that thanks to Cage, she was now going to become a free woman, as Dillard signed the document and handed it back to Knight.
Dillard watched on as Knight contacted Priscilla Ridley, who took her team to then storm into Harlem's Paradise, only for them to discover that Bushmaster had already disappeared. When Dillard questioned what had happened, Cage noted that Bushmaster must have known that they were coming, before James Lucas implored them all to look outside, as they witnessed Bushmaster's cars driving up to the Rand Enterprises Research Facility, blocking off their exits. Witnessing this, Dillard then ran back through the hallways to find somewhere to hide, while Bushmaster and his people prepared to attack the Facility.
Bushmaster began calling out for Cage, advising him to leave Dillard unprotected, in exchange for Bushmaster allowing him and his allies to go free, as Bushmaster called Dillard the devil that had been made flesh. Dillard began pacing up and down the hallways, unsure if Cage would allow Bushmaster to kill her to ensure the safety of his allies, with Cage even noting to Knight and Lucas that he was willing to at least consider this, due to all of the pain and misery that Dillard had caused, while Cage turned to Dillard and questioned what she would do, with Dillard admitted she would have thrown Cage to the dogs.
Despite all this, Cage admitted that he would not do the same, noting that he had been raised better than that. Cage then stepped away, as Knight then led Dillard, Lucas, and Tilda Johnson through the facilities hallways, before Bushmaster called out that Cage's time had run out, as he sent the Stylers into the facility. While Cage leaped out a window and began fighting against Bushmaster, Knight had blocked the door to the room they were hiding in, just before Stylers arrived and began shooting at them, forcing Dillard to take cover, as Knight shot back at them before they got in, forcing Knight to fight against the Stylers.
However, Dillard had then noticed that Knight had managed to knock a shotgun out of one of the Stylers' hands before Dillard was able to crawl to the gun and used it to shoot and kill one of the Stylers, while another managed to get behind cover while Dillard shot back at him. While she looked around the room, Dillard locked eyes with Johnson, indicating to her to run away, while Dillard continued to hunt down all of her attackers. As Dillard marched through the hallway, shooting at the Stylers who came into view, she had muttered to them to kiss her black ass, while she still continued to shoot at all of her enemies.
As their fighting continued, Dillard had managed to make her escape from the facility, as she began walking back into Harlem, while armed with her shotgun, leaving Cage to then defeat Bushmaster in combat, resulting with Bushmaster being arrested by the New York City Police Department. However, while Dillard was walking across a bridge, she noticed that a car was seemingly following her, as she waited for the car to stop before turning around and aiming up the shotgun, only for her to realize that it was actually Shades, as she commented that she had known that Shades would find her, as he said he had got her.
Dillard then told Shades that she was done playing by their rules and denying whom she really was, while also insisting that she now knew who she actually was, and wanted to claim everything that was hers. With that, Shades then passionately kissed Dillard, before telling her that he had something to give to her. Shades had then opened up the trunk of his car, revealing to Dillard that he had successfully managed to capture Bushmaster's uncle, Anansi, as he had just left him tied up inside the trunk, with Dillard and Shades then reciting Mama Mabel's saying of "Family First," before then closing the trunk on Anansi.
Returning to the Paradise
In the wake of her escape, Dillard returned into Harlem's Paradise, as she found the remains from all of Bushmaster's experiments with the Nightshade, as Dillard insisted someone would have to clean it up. Dillard then turned to Benjamin Donovan and claimed that the entire situation was his fault, to which Donovan had insisted that he had called her to rectify the situation, although Dillard claimed that Donovan was only there before his deal with Bushmaster fell through.
Donovan had then informed Dillard that he had been able to reclaim all of her holdings, cash, as well as Harlem's Paradise, as Dillard then checked her bank records on her phone to confirm that this was true. When Shades questioned how this was possible, Donovan had then explained that since Piranha Jones had been tortured by Bushmaster when the transfer of the funds was made, it was illegal. While Dillard began kicking over Bushmaster's candles, Shades asked about their issues with the New York City Police Department, although Donovan remained confident that this would not be any problem for them.
Dillard listened as Donovan explained that he could tie up the police in a legal case for years and they would still lose, while Dillard could keep all of her money and assets. Donovan questioned if all his work settled any disagreements between them, to which Dillard responded by grabbing a tight hold of Donovan's testicles while insisting that it was not even close to getting settled. Dillard questioned if Donovan had ever stolen money from her, which he denied, as Dillard finally let go of his testicles. Once Donovan went to leave the club, Dillard then made a mocking comment about Donovan's nickname of Big Ben.
Once they were alone, Dillard told Shades to call back everyone from the Stokes Crime Family, noting that while it was good to have their money back from the Stylers, they still needed to reclaim their control over Harlem's streets. Dillard had then told Shades how she wanted to see Bushmaster's head on a platter, to which Shades simply noted they needed to find him first, since Bushmaster had already escaped from the police's custody, although Dillard then noted that they now had Anansi who could help them to find where Bushmaster would be hiding, much to the delight of Shades as they embraced each other.
Dillard took back her usual position on Harlem's Paradise's balcony, as she was rejoined by Shades. Dillard then explained that she was thinking about Mama Mabel and Cottonmouth, as well as everyone else who had stood in that spot, while she claimed that Harlem was ruled from that balcony, noting that this could feel like she was ruling the world from there. Shades then presented Dillard with the Stokes' Revolver, which had been found in the ruins of her Brownstone, with Shades noting that he had not given it to her before this, as he was unsure if he could still trust her, as Dillard took the gun from him.
Cage and Rand's Threat
Dillard then stepped back into her office, as she scoffed at a portrait of Marcus Garvey that Bushmaster had hung up on the wall. Having poured herself a drink, and sat at her desk, Dillard watched as Shades and Sugar brought in Anansi, with Dillard mockingly greeting him with the traditional Jamaican greeting, while Anansi remained silent and stared at Dillard. When Dillard insisted that he did not scare her, Anansi scoffed and claimed that she was consumed with fear.
However, before Dillard could continue interrogating Anansi, she was interrupted as Shades said that Luke Cage and Danny Rand had just arrived into Harlem's Paradise. Stepping to her office window, Dillard looked down at Cage and Rand, before then telling Shades that she would go out to speak with them personally. As Shades questioned why she would do this, Dillard had explained that it would be the only way for her to prevent them from coming upstairs and discovering a captured Anansi. Greeting them, Dillard told Cage and Rand that the club would not be opened until the next week due to cleaning.
Cage informed Dillard that they were looking for Bushmaster, only for Dillard to then claim that she had moved on from the situation, which Cage doubted was the truth. Cage had reminded Dillard that she had already walked away from Misty Knight's immunity deal, while telling her not to tear up their streets, only for Dillard to warn that she would attack anyone who came after her family. In response, Cage had then questioned where Tilda Johnson was, with Dillard explaining that she did not know, while Cage had questioned if she had even bothered to go into Mother's Touch to see if Johnson was safe from danger.
Dillard told Cage that Johnson had just gone her own way, calling it the curse of parenthood, before questioning how James Lucas was doing, noting how Lucas seemed to be more fun than Cage. Dillard then offered Rand a drink, which he politely refused, before she told Cage that he could tear up Harlem, but it would only waste time and warned him that he should find Bushmaster. When Cage told Dillard to not do anything stupid, he immediately took it back, telling her to do something stupid so that he could bring down their Stokes Crime Family, although Dillard was unintimidated as they walked out.
- "Buggy could only fight for one family, and he chose the right one. He should have finished off the whole raasclaat McIver family when he had the chance... What? You think this is funny?"
"Mi laugh at mi own folly. When Johnny declared war on yuh, mi felt sorry for yuh. Mi nah want him to destroy you the way the Stokes destroyed him own family."
- ―Mariah Dillard and Anansi[src]
Once Luke Cage and Danny Rand had left, Dillard then returned into her office, as she expressed surprise that Anansi did not even attempt to alert Cage and Rand to his situation, to which Anansi claimed that his fate was already sealed so it would not matter either way, noting that Dillard's fate was also sealed. However, Anansi had then also claimed that there was nothing that Dillard could do to him that would make him betray Bushmaster, although Dillard had then coldly told Anansi not to be so sure about that.
Dillard instructed Shades to untie Anansi, noting that if he was going to attempt to escape, he would have done it already, noting that if he did try and run then Shades would have to shoot him. Dillard offered Anansi some Bushmaster Rum, which he refused, while Dillard went on to note that she understood what Buggy Stokes meant as it was the smoothest rum she had. While Anansi warned that Dillard should enjoy it before her judgement, Dillard warned that she had more time than he did. Dillard then commented that she had lied to Bushmaster about how Buggy had stolen Quincy McIver's formula for the rum.
Dillard went on to note that she recalled Mama Mabel telling stories about Buggy and Quincy's dreams of success, commenting on how their Stokes Crime Family had fought hard for Harlem's Paradise to succeed over the years, although Anansi called Buggy a slave, which angered Dillard. As Anansi continued to insult Dillard, calling her lazy and fighting for the scraps, Shades took out his gun to threaten him, while Dillard commented on how Jamaica did not even become free until 1962, as they continued to argue about the conflict between the two families, noting that they should have murdered every McIver.
As Anansi laughed, Dillard questioned if he thought that the situation was funny, to which Anansi claimed that he was laughing at himself, noting that when Bushmaster began their War for Harlem, he had felt sorry for her. However, Anansi then explained that he could see that Dillard had the same darkness which Bushmaster had, claiming that she deserved her punishment. Dillard questioned where Bushmaster was, only for Anansi to claim that he did not know, and would not tell her if he did. When Anansi had noted that those seeking revenge had to dig two graves, Dillard claimed that it would not be enough.
Dillard and Shades then took their captured Anansi down the streets of Harlem, as Shades was informed that a Stylers' Grow House had just been burnt down to the ground, likely due to the vigilante actions of Luke Cage and Danny Rand. Upon hearing this, Dillard noted that Cage and Rand were doing their dirty work for them, and it would be a perfect time for them to finally strike back against Bushmaster, as Shades assumed she meant to send his family an ultimatum in order to end their conflict against Bushmaster once and for all.
Arriving at Gwen's, one of Dillard's henchmen shot out the cameras before Dillard and Shades stepped inside, with guns aimed at all of the terrified customers inside the restaurant. Dillard had then looked around their restaurant, watching as one of her men knocking Ingrid Mackintosh to the floor while Anansi was dragged inside. However, Dillard then noticed that Stephanie Miller was there, as she begged Dillard not to harm anyone. Dillard then realized that it was Miller who betrayed her, allowing Bushmaster to learn about Piranha Jones and how to target her, while Miller had then begged Dillard for mercy.
As Miller had begged Dillard for mercy, Dillard claimed that her name would now be Stokes. Dillard then ordered one of her men to shoot Miller in the head, resulting with another customer running in fear, as they were then also shot and killed, along with every other innocent bystander inside of the restaurant. Once everyone was dead, Dillard had Anansi's blindfold removed, so that he could look at the corpses surrounding him. As a devastated Anansi crawled across the floor in despair, the shocked Shades stepped over to Stokes and noted that this was not what they had discussed, which Dillard dismissed.
Dillard then had Anansi dragged before her, while her men grabbed some of the Bushmaster Rum, while Dillard noted that it was time for them to see if Bushmaster was right about the power of fire. Dillard watched as her men poured the rum over Anansi, who then furiously warned that he would continue to haunt Dillard for the rest of her life. However, Dillard stopped Anansi's ranting by setting fire to the rum, causing Anansi to burst into flames. As Anansi continued screaming in agony, Dillard then drew the Stokes' Revolver, and shot him in the head, as Dillard noted that Bushmaster would come for them now.
Confident in her victory, Dillard returned to Harlem's Paradise, where she watched as Faith Evans and Jadakiss performed together. Dillard then Cottonmouth's portrait of Biggie Smalls put back on the wall of her office, replacing a portrait of Marcus Garvey, which was hung by Bushmaster. Taking her usual positioning on the balcony of Harlem's Paradise, Dillard watched Evans and Jadakiss' performance on their stage, as she was brought champagne by some of her henchmen and delighted in her victory over Bushmaster. However, Dillard failed to see Shades walking away, disheartened by her violent action.
- "You think that this plastic bullshit is going to prevent that man from coming to get you after what you did last night?"
"What we did... When the time is right, we will pop him in his bumboclaat ass once and for all. We're building this safe room for a reason, Hernan. Bushmaster's coming."
- ―Shades and Mariah Dillard[src]
With the threat of Bushmaster's revenge still strong, Dillard was given a tour of all the new security measures in Harlem's Paradise, as Alex Wesley showed her their new panic room under the club, as Dillard delighted over the new hand scanner, which Wesley explained was gifted by Atreus Plastics. Once inside, Wesley then told Dillard about his idea to hang up her Jean-Michel Basquiat painting while reassuring Dillard that the bunker was strong enough to protect her.
However, as Dillard delighted in Wesley's promises, Shades scoffed at their designs, questioning if Dillard really believed that the bunker would actually be strong enough to protect them all, in the wake of the Massacre at Gwen's, since he had known that nothing would to able to keep Bushmaster from getting his revenge. However, Dillard reminded Shades of his part in the massacre, noting that they would soon kill Bushmaster once and for all, making it clear that they were building their safe house for a reason, as she knew that Bushmaster was coming for her, and they simply needed to be ready for him.
Hunt for Ingrid Mackintosh
- "We're gonna make big moves, man, you and I, just like we talked about, but in order for that to happen I need you to leave Hernan behind, just for a while, and be my Shades."
"You think you can just wash your hands of all this? You think it's that simple?"
"I do. I need you to do what Shades always does."
- ―Mariah Dillard and Shades[src]
However, when Dillard watched the WJBP-TV news report, she had then discovered that Karen Page was reporting a survivor from their Massacre at Gwen's, although Misty Knight and Priscilla Ridley had failed to confirm if it was actually true. While Dillard had watched the news reports, she was then rejoined by Shades, as she had informed him of the survivor from the massacre, who she had learned was Ingrid Mackintosh, the wife of Anansi, with Dillard ordering Shades to locate Mackintosh and execute her.
Despite this, Shades tried to reassure Dillard that, if Mackintosh had actually survived the massacre, there would be little chance that she would want to talk to the New York City Police Department about the experience. Shades sat down as he demanded to know what Dillard had been thinking by ordering the massacre, to which Dillard insisted that it was due to Bushmaster starting the War for Harlem, while she insisted that she did not start the conflict. Dillard had then informed Shades that Alex Wesley had already sent Ricky and Tony to search for Mackintosh, telling Shades to go and join them with the search.
However, Shades only laughed, as he questioned if Dillard had given Wesley the power to give orders to the Stokes Crime Family, only for Dillard to mock Shades for being insecure about Wesley role. Dillard then claimed to be able to see the fear and conflict in Shades' eyes, noting that she used to have the same look, insisting that they would still be able to make big moves in Harlem, but claimed that for this to happen, Shades needed to be her true gangster again, which would allow her to wash her hands of their violence, as she told him to take care of Mackintosh so that she could then secure their future.
Deal with Hai-Qing Yang
- "Guns are great, they maintain the peace, but heroin, everybody's on it now. That's true currency."
"I couldn't agree with you more, but that's our business."
"And no one wants to stop that... If we can come to our satisfactory agreement, I'm willing to allow the Yangsi Gonshi to run China White through Harlem."
- ―Mariah Dillard and Hai-Qing Yang[src]
Intending to increase her power over Harlem, Dillard invited Hai-Qing Yang to meet her in Harlem's Paradise, to discuss her being involved with his heroin business, as Yang had first questioned why she would want to get involved, as their Stokes Crime Family had previously only been focused on their gun businesses. Dillard explained to Yang that, while guns maintained the peace, heroin was where the money was, although Yang insisted that the Yangsi Gonshi were not looking for to get any more competition.
Dillard insisted that she would not stop Yang's organizations, as she claimed that if they came to an arrangement, she would be willing to allow the Yangsi Gonshi to run all their Chinatown based operations through Harlem, which would allow for greater profits for the Yangsi Gonshi. In response to her propositions, Yang had then noted that he had heard that Dillard had half a billion dollars to her name, so clearly she did not actually need to be involved in the heroin business, while he noted that he remembered how Mama Mabel was always against the idea of the Stokes family being involved in the heroin business.
Dillard had insisted to Yang that now that Mabel and the rest of those Stokes' were dead, and now she was running the businesses. Dillard told Yang that she was now thinking bigger than any of her previous family members ever had before, telling him that it was time for them to let the ghosts of the past die, so they could join forces at long last, to their mutual benefit. With that, Dillard offered her hand to Yang and suggested that they tear down the metaphorical wall that was put up between their organizations, when Yang stood up and shook Dillard's hand, agreeing to work with her, much to Dillard's satisfaction.
Ghosts of the Past
- "I legitimized our name, I built community centers and real estate projects, safe spaces for women and kids, every time something connected to you came up to taint it. All this is your fault."
"Even killing sweet Cornell?"
"He wasn't sweet anymore, after what you did to him."
- ―Mariah Dillard and Mama Mabel[src]
Following her deal with Hai-Qing Yang, Dillard had remained in her office inside Harlem's Paradise, where she made herself a drink to celebrate their deals. However, Dillard then began to imagine Mama Mabel was also in the room, as she insisted that she was better than Mabel ever was, which Mabel mocked, claiming that drugs were their plague. However, Dillard simply insisted that she no longer had to listen to Mabel, who had already been dead for several years.
Mabel had then accused Dillard of dragging the Stokes Crime Family through the streets, although Dillard insisted that she had legitimized their own name by building the Crispus Attucks Complex and Shirley Chisholm Complex, which had aimed to be a safe space for women and children who were living in Harlem, while claiming that every time she tried to build something good, the legacy of Mabel came back to taint it. When Dillard claimed that everything was her fault, Mabel had questioned if this had included her murdering Cottonmouth, although Dillard insisted that Mabel had turned a sweet boy into a murderer.
While Dillard continued to argue with Mabel, she also imagined Pistol Pete in the office, who told Mabel to lay off Dillard, claiming that she was doing her best. Dillard began backing away, while she imagined Pete telling her that they agreed about joining the drug game, calling Dillard smart, tough, and beautiful, claiming that he had molded her to be that way. Pete had told Dillard that he forgave her for ordering Cottonmouth to murder him, although Mabel insisted that this had been her. When Pete had referenced Tilda Johnson following in their footsteps, Dillard furiously ordered him to never say her name.
While Pete continued discussing his legacy on Johnson's personality, saying that she had become even more ambitious than both of them had ever been, and that it was meant to be, Dillard furiously insisted that her uncle should not also be her father, while Mabel commented that Dillard was clearly working out some past trauma. Attempting to regain control over her own mind, Dillard told Mabel and Pete that it was now her world, insisting that she was owed more and she would eventually own all New York City. With that, Dillard turned around, as she saw that her visions of Mabel and Pete had now vanished.
Confronted by Shades
- "But the dead are dead, are you a vegan now? You've been a god damn carnivore the whole time I've known you, a predator I loved that. Did you kill the bitch or what?"
"She could go to the cops, Hernan. If I go down, you go down. Your ass was right next to me the whole time, firing."
- ―Mariah Dillard and Shades[src]
Dillard had continued drinking, as she was joined by Alex Wesley and invited him to rejoin her for a drink. Once they had both gotten quite drunk and shared a laugh, Wesley indicated that he should leave, while Dillard insisted that Wesley was to call her by her first name. However, they were then interrupted by Shades, who had found Dillard almost on top of Wesley, whom she had claimed had always been loyal to her and said that he was always there when she needed him, only for Shades to order Wesley to leave.
Although Dillard insisted that only she could tell Wesley to leave, he had then run out the door, once Shades had pulled out a gun. Once they were alone, Dillard accused Shades of being jealous of her and Wesley, which he denied, while he claimed that he was seeing Dillard for the first time again. As Dillard poured herself a drink, Shades then told her that there was a code on the streets, and actual rules to the crimes they committed, claiming that their massacre at Gwen's had broken those rules, only for Dillard to remind Shades about Candace Miller, and how she was innocent but he had killed her regardless.
However, Shades insisted that Miller was guilty as soon as she took their money, and broke their rules by talking to Misty Knight, noting that he had also killed her to protect Dillard, although Dillard simply dismissed this. Dillard had then mockingly questioned if Shades was becoming vegan, claiming that Shades had been her predator, for as long as she had known him, before questioning if he had killed Ingrid Mackintosh. However, instead of answering, Shades told Dillard that he was done, with Dillard reminding him that Mackintosh could go to the New York City Police Department and take them both down.
Dillard reminded Shades of how he had also been shooting during their massacre, only for Shades to remind her that he had told her to use Anansi as leverage against Bushmaster, and she did not have to kill innocent people, although Dillard argued that Shades had always known what would happen at Gwen's, which was why he scouted it. When Dillard then insisted that Bushmaster had started the War for Harlem, and she was ending it, Shades told her that she had lost her heart, noting that he had looked at her face while Anansi was burning alive, and she had never even blinked while he was screaming.
In response, Dillard had then claimed that she was done babysitting, and reminded Shades of how he had told her that her first kill would always be her hardest, before it got easier, insisting that he had been correct about this. Dillard reminding Shades of how he had protected her after she murdered Cottonmouth, as she caressed Shades' body and noted how scared she had been that night, until he had arrived. However, as Dillard had claimed that Shades had made her into who she was now, Shades took her hands away and accused her of being a crazy bitch, before then attempting to walk out of her office.
Annoyed at him walking away, Dillard then claimed that Shades had been different ever since Comanche had died, while noting that she had recognized the looks of jealousy that Comanche had given her, making it clear that she knew Shades and Comanche were lovers as they were inside Seagate Penitentiary. Dillard went on to question if Shades had actually loved Comanche, before noting how she wished that she had been the one to pull that trigger on Comanche, noting that she would have shot him twice into the gut, so that he would die slowly and painfully, while she would have made Shades watch.
However, these comments about the death of Comanche had only resulted in Dillard enraging Shades, who grabbed her by her throat and furiously threw her down onto her desk, attempting to chock the life out of Dillard, while she desperately attempted to kick him off of her, only to find herself unable to get Shades off her, as she was now completely at his mercy. Despite Dillard still being unable to defend herself against him, Shades eventually let down, as Dillard coughed and regained her breath, with Shades claiming that she was not even worth the effort of killing her, while he also called Dillard pathetic.
As Dillard sat up, struggling to breathe, she demanded that Shades come back, as she was not done with him, only watch him walk out the door without another word. However, Dillard then saw that Tilda Johnson had come to Harlem's Paradise, as she noted that she had believed that Johnson had left town, as Johnson demanded to know if her mother was responsible for the massacre at Gwen's. However, Dillard confidently told Johnson that she did not just give the order, but lit the match and pulled the trigger, which horrified Johnson, who said goodbye to Dillard before she also walked away from her.
United Criminal Force
In an attempt to regain her control over Harlem, Dillard had arranged a meeting with various heads of the crime families of New York City, as she met them at their Calderwood Auction House. Sitting behind them, Dillard greeted the criminals and thanked them for joining her, only for Eric Hong to note that the last time the Korean Mob attended one of Dillard's meetings, it resulted with his brother being killed by Diamondback.
While Dillard had insisted that Diamondback was a plague on them all, Anibal Izqueda noted that Bushmaster was their latest plague to deal with, with Rosalie Carbone noting that all of these plagues had appeared to begin with Dillard. While Dillard questioned if Carbone meant to compare her to God, Carbone had insisted that she viewed Dillard as a pebble in her shoe. Dillard insisted that the Stylers were defeated, although Hong insisted that there would be no hopes for them joining forces while Bushmaster was still alive, despite Hai-Qing Yang insisting that they now had a plan to deal with Bushmaster.
However, Carbone questioned a need for them to join forces, noting how all of the other crime families could work their organizations as they did before, while it was only the Stokes Crime Family who were the problem, to which Dillard had then claimed that the problem with the Carbone Crime Family was that they kept themselves isolated. As Dillard continued, she insisted that they could all make bigger profits by joining forces, as she offered Harlem as the gateway to a greater deal, noting that they could use her real estate opportunities to wash their profits, with Dillard confirming that she would be in charge.
Dillard had reassured the group that she still had legitimate access to various political assets which they could use, promising to open the walls around Harlem for specific access for their organizations. When Carbone questioned what the price would be for this, Dillard did not answer and instead admired the Auction house, calling it a cathedral to power and privilege. Dillard had then witnessed her own item, the galley of The Souls of Black Folk come up for auction, as Dillard then made it clear that she expected all of them to bid for the item, or else only the Yangsi Gonshi would be given her access into Harlem.
With that, Dillard and Yang left all the other criminal leaders to bid for her item, while also noting that the book would only be a placeholder, as she expected to be given it back from whoever paid for it. Dillard then met with Alex Wesley, who complimented her on their meeting, while Yang noted that his security teams were under the impression that Bushmaster was still watching them closely, with Dillard noting that she hoped that this was indeed the case, as they had planned to lure Bushmaster into their trap. With that, Wesley then led Dillard out of the auction house, as they drove back to Harlem together.
Drinking with Luke Cage
- "Of course, you're going to save me. You are my dark chocolate boy scout, it's what I love about our relationship."
"There is no relationship, I hate you."
"It's the hate that makes it great. I used to daydream about how to kill you, drown you, poison you, burn you, break your heart. So foolish, I didn't appreciate what was right in front of me."
- ―Mariah Dillard and Luke Cage[src]
Having returned to Harlem's Paradise, Dillard then heard the sudden arrival of Luke Cage, as he called out to her. Despite her henchmen holding Cage at gunpoint, Dillard remained calm and invited him to come up into her office to talk. As Dillard collected two glasses of Bushmaster Rum, she noted Cage's torn hoodie and suggested that she could introduce him to Dapper Dan, although Cage noted that he had already met Dan, noting that Cottonmouth had actually ruined the last suit that Dan had given to him.
Dillard then offered Cage a drink, which he refused, as he claimed he never drank while on duty, before he then explained that he had just managed to bring down a Yangsi Gonshi Warehouse, which she had set up with Hai-Qing Yang, as Cage commented that Dillard's plan to put Bushmaster's name onto a new batch of heroin was genius, as it had lured Bushmaster out of the shadows to shut it down, noting that it also worked when Arturo Rey III did the same thing to him, all while Dillard denied everything. Cage noted that he did not care how many allies Dillard thought she had, while he called her Black Mariah.
Cage told Dillard that Bushmaster was still coming for her, noting that the Stokes Crime Family crews would still not be able to protect her, although Dillard insisted that she had always lived her life with some opposition. When Cage had noted that he had already saved her l