Moon Knight, A Twist of Fate pt. 4

I hand the driver a twenty.  In my slowest, most unbroken English I can manage, he understands my request to wait.  The moment I step from the cab, I take in the deepest breath I think I ever have, for a second I’m actually light headed.

The putrid body odor several paces behind me, my nostrils are definitely thankful.  My heart rate hasn’t taken the chance to calm.  I’m still shaking.  I can feel the blood running through every artery.

I’m not angry.

For the first time all night, I’m not angry.  I’m not numb.

I’m excited.

Leaving Jimmy-boy in that alley, bleeding and unconscious, I should be troubled.  I should feel guilty.  I should feel many things society says I should.

Nevertheless, I don’t.

Justification is the word echoing through my head.  Justification, over and over again.

I walk past the doorman, I can never remember his name, and I smile and wave.  Soaking wet, with blood seeping into the fabric of my pockets thanks to all the rain, Jimmy-boys’ blood is easy enough to keep hidden for now.  Whatever his name, Trevor or something equally ridiculous, is blissfully ignorant of the evidence all over my hidden hands.

My smugly twisted smile doesn’t leave my face until the elevator doors open.  The penthouse door stares me in the face and my heart almost slows to a crawl.  Not one stray flicker of light borders the doorframe and my thoughts of justification vanish without a warning.  All that exciting violence pushed out of the frame of my mind with only a new word that rings throughout my brain:  Amanda.

My stomach turns.  Fucking Christ, what am I doing?

My hand is shaking for a different reason now, my excitement all but gone, replaced by nerves attacking every inch of my stomach lining.

* * *

She loves the dark.  For longer, than she could remember the darkness always gave her a peace of mind.  Amanda remembers the fits her mother would throw over sitting in the dark, whether with a book or not, all alone.  Of course, it would always follow with some utterance about her father.

Her mother always refused to speak about her father; Amanda knew nothing about him, though she once heard her mother say something about insanity.  She always hated that, the love of the dark they seemingly shared. She never told her mother about cherishing the dark and thinking of her father while consumed in the strange welcome feeling of the black.  She never once told Marlene about the many times she came so close to emailing him.  Letters were impossible; a phone call would have probably put him in jail.

Just to talk, just once.  Why was that always so wrong?

It shouldn’t be dark, but its raining.  He left her alone again.  After they left the hospital, he nearly ran out the door talking about some issue with his job and Amanda went about her own devices.  The house to herself for hours, her explorations had graduated into snooping days ago and now with her fingers around her fathers’ door knob, she was about to enter someplace that even thinking made her nervous.  His floor is spotless, even his bed made, which of course she wondered if he even slept in the first place.  Amanda recalled her mother always warning her that she’d end up like him, that she was just like him.  Though she couldn’t think of a particular reason why, she dropped to her knees to peer under his bed.

A thick film of dust covered the tops of boxes.  Almost lined end to end from the wall to the foot of his bed, she was just able to weave her small frame between several boxes to peer inside.  The flash light stings her eyes for a second as they adjust; excitement fills her mind as she peers into a box filled of pictures and albums.  However, the journal catches her eyes immediately.

Another photo album sits under his leather bound journal, four gold trimmed numbers read off 1989 a full six years before she was born.  A golden star attached to blue and white trimmed fabric with a red line vertical in its center slips out of the old book.  She knows its a medal, she knows Marc was in the military and kicked out soon after he joined, but she asks herself what more there could be with that story.

She slips the medal into her pocket and looks to the rest of the photo albums.  There isn’t a rhyme or a reason to the order.  Several pages of pictures of her with her mom, Amanda with her father.  All the things that should say a happy family, but her frustration grows, ‘if they were so happy,’ she thinks to herself, ‘why did she hate him so much?’

A heavy noise clicks in the silence.  Breathing quicker, she shuts off the flashlight.  The silence returns for a moment until the bedroom door swings open.  Amanda doesn’t move a muscle.  She prays silently that he doesn’t check the sheets she left in her room to fool him that she went to bed early.

She counts the footsteps, he’s at least gone to the bathroom now, and she focuses on the number hoping to slow her breathing.  It barely takes a moment before she’s staring at his shoes, standing at the foot of his bed.

* * *

It’s a little early to be asleep, but she’s had a rough day being at that hospital so long.  I’m actually relieved that I won’t need to explain anything.  It at least makes my night a little easier.

My bathroom light is the only light I use, it’s not much but it’ll have to do.  Hot water stings my open knuckles and after a couple minutes, I’m not sure how much of the pink water is from Jimmy-boy’s blood or my own.  I don’t want to run the risk of waking her; I wouldn’t even begin to know how to answer any question right about now.

Satisfied for the moment, I turn my sights to my closet and a change of clothes.  Checking my watch, I know the dirty cabbie is getting annoyed, if he actually stuck around.  I’d better get a move on.

All of Greene’s clubs have a strict dress code, and I aim to follow all the rules.  From my stash of work clothes, I pull out a dark red shit, silver tie, and another pair of black slacks to replace the bloodied pair I’m wearing.  The clothes go on in a hurry and I key my attention to the false wall in my closet.

On the right wall, kept hidden only by my clothes, an electric keypad is set discretely out of the way.  Amanda’s birthday opens the safe, and I freely remove a nine-millimeter and two magazines, laughing slightly at the silver hollow points I still have.

The chamber is clear; I double check before I slide the compact into my belt.  Just for extra protection, I strap a small knife around my left ankle and a butterfly knife in my pocket.  Greene is going to have an army of thugs to throw at me; brass knuckles will only get me so far.

* * *

Amanda hasn’t moved an inch in the ten minutes Marc had walked into his room.  He forgets to turn out the bathroom light and she listens for the front door to close behind him before she breathes any release.  Waiting another minute or two, the curious girl returns to her task.

Pulling herself and several of the items that piqued her interest, she drags herself out from under his bed.  Her left leg is asleep.  She nearly falls over before she can attempt to stand.  From the floor, she shines her flashlight on the photo album she brought out with her; a tear nearly comes to her eye.  She stares at the picture of herself as an infant, the one her mother had torn in half.  Lying in her mothers arms, there was her smiling father, his eyes on nothing but her.

She had always wondered what her mother did with the torn half of the photo, or even why Marlene would go to such terrible trouble to erase him from her life.  The three of them, together, the first time in her eyes, she had hit gold, three days of searching and it finally paid off.  After it seemed that neither of her parents wanted to remember the past, but she wasn’t any closer to finding answers.

The flashlight rolls out of her lap, spinning on the carpet not but a few inches away from her feet.  A solid stream of light pours into the closet, and Amanda cannot help herself.  Her curiosity never satisfied.

Pushing his clothes aside, she sees Marc hadn’t closed the safe.  Her teeth clench around the rubber grip of the flashlight just like on TV.  She peers inside only to find everything she never expected.

Taped to the walls of the safe, guarded against the entire world is every school picture her mother ever made.  Several more chronicle her birthdays, every Christmas, her baptism, communion, every event starting with the picture taken in the hospital nursery ending with her first lunch with Marc in Seattle.

She steps backward.  Overwhelmed and elated at the same time and not paying attention to her footing.  She slips back, trying to catch herself and failing at the effort.  Shirts and ties fall with her, the mess tumbling over her, Amanda pulls at the fabric, struggling to free herself she screams aloud as her foot founds against the closet wall.

Her heel stings with the strike, but an odd sound entering her ears interests her more.  She tests the wall once more, and then again.

“Hollow?”  She asks herself, tossing everything away from her.  Her small fingers pry away at the section slightly discolored from the rest.

Taking the flashlight, she peers down at another box hidden within the false wall.  A wooden box, locked with two padlocks.  “The hell is this?”

* * *

The cabbie high tails it as soon as I step out in front of the Hudson Pub.  Everyone who isn’t naive knows Christobal Greene operates anywhere between ten and fifteen gambling houses and that this is his favorite one.  Cops generally keep their distance, not our of fear – as Greene knows better than to fuck with the city – as he does keep a lot of freelance criminals on a tight lease, the cops would rather let him be than have bored costumes on their hands.

He’s from the old order, back when the Kingpin ran things.  Nevertheless, he’s also one of the smarter criminal groupies that didn’t die off.  This means he’s going to know what’s going on, or he’ll know where I can look.

I haven’t been here in years; he’s really improved the placed.  The bastard turned a filthy, condemned warehouse into a casino classier than any Reservation could ever hope.

Keeping a slow pace, I toss the bouncer a hundred and he conveniently forgets to pat me down.  Stepping from the eroded asphalt directly onto a bright red carpet, the main house is surprisingly worthy of Vegas, well…almost.  The amount of scumbags at the card tables is astounding.  Fred Meyers has an incredibly telling poker face.  Shit head is trying to bluff his way from losing whatever stolen cash he was able to get out from under Spider-Man or whatever popular do-gooder is in the news this month.

Meyers holds a pair of fingers on a stack of five hundred dollar chips and I decide to be friendly and lay a hand on his shoulder, “Man a pair of two’s won’t get you out of this, just fold.”

I vanish into the crowd before some criminals further down the food chain than Boomerang can get pissed.  I laugh my way to the bar and take advantage of an empty stool.  The blonde hones in on me instantly, “What can I get you?”

She’s a looker, pretty for a bartender anyway, “Vodka Martini,” she stops me before I can finish.

“Seriously,” she says from behind her raised hand.

It’s a demand, I check about the bar.  She’s a busy girl, definitely in no mood to put up with my shitty humor.  “Just give me a shot of Jack.”

She sets a glass down rough, I’m ready to make a play for her number; but she’s gone before I have a chance to look up.  She has a small frame, a little delicate to be working around here; but if there’s anything, I’ve learned from my ex-wife, pepper spray and stun guns make small girls dangerous.

The bartender never tells me what to pay, and a tap on my shoulder reminds me of the free drink policy, “Mister Green don’t want you here,” a rough voice scratches the air behind me.

“Isn’t it customary for you to let me have my drink before you throw me out?”

“He’s new.”  Another, lighter and slightly effeminate tone announces as a skinnier man sits to my left.  Blue suit, white tie, and a pair of sunglasses that make me curse the Matrix.  “But we know you aren’t about to finish that drink anyway.”

I smile and push the shot glass away, “A little something to make me cooperate?”

“Yeah,” the skinny punk says, “something like that.”

His muscle-bound bouncer seems slightly impatient, I get the feeling he was promised a fight.  The three of us have nothing to say to one another, and I’m curious if I could order another drink that wouldn’t lead to a bruising that I couldn’t explain to Amanda later.

“What’s a straight arrow, big shot like you doing down here?”  The same punk oozes out, “wasn’t that part of the deal Mister Grant is it?”

If it wasn’t for Jameson and my face all over the toilet paper he sells, this shit-head wouldn’t have ever known my real name.  Price I pay for success, I could never keep identity secrets anyway, “Grant was a name from a lifetime ago.”

The drink had just begun to look tempting; listening to these over-dressed peons, I don’t think it would have taken much coaxing to down an ounce of Cyanide.  The one in blue stood first, and I abandoned the idea to resist when the bouncer grabs my arm.

I smiled at him, thinking to myself just how many ways I could snap his arm.

Pulled like a leased dog through the crowded Casino.  Thrown through an open door, and forced to sit in a wooden chair.  I oblige them and do as they say, praying to myself that I meet them in a dark alley and soon.

His yellow eyes, a sight not easily forgotten, peer through me like some sort of mutie thing.  “I thought it was quite clear, you are not welcome here Mister Grant.”

Been a few years since anyone seriously called me that, it takes me by surprise a bit, but I still play along, “Sorry Chris, I forgot.”

“I’m sure,” Christobal, laughs.  “Its been, what four years since we last spoke?  But I’m curious all the same, what brings you here?”

I turn to my left and then my right, “Do we need to do this in front of the goons?”

He laughs silently, “no I suppose we don’t.”

A snap of his fingers later, the peons leave and are both unhappy to do so.  The door closes and I wait for the latch to begin.  “I’m looking for some information, something that the cops won’t easily come by.”

“So you came looking yourself?  Such a shame we can’t seem to trust our officers of the peace these days.”

“Then again, I bet their easier to bribe.”

“This is true, Steven, very true.”

We’ve had our bad blood in the past, and we often pretended to tolerate one another; but he’s being even too nice with the small talk.  “And since I’m here, I need to apologize ahead of time about Jimmy.  I roughed him up a little much earlier.”

“He’s got a mouth on him, suffice to say, he had it coming.”

Christobal’s nervous habit stars to kick in, the longer we talk.  He shuffles a deck of cards over and again, some things never change.  “A friend of mine was hurt; I’m looking to find out why.”

“And you come looking for me?  I have to say I’m flattered, but I’m just a gambler, not a killer.”

“I never said he died, just hurt.”

His cards stop moving, “Then it’s a good thing, no?”

He’s playing dumb; his shaking hands tell me a little more than he wants to tell.  “I still have a large problem on my hands, you see.  If that person who came gunning for my friend continues living, then I have to watch my back all the time.  Paranoia is bad for business, as you should know.”

“Ah, yes I know.”  Christobal’s voice is almost a whisper.  I just hit a nerve.  “But, Steven, revenge does not suit you; why not let the police handle it?”

I stare right into his urine stained eyes, making sure my face goes stone cold.  “You don’t know me as well as you think Chris, revenge suits everything I am.”

Taken aback, his skin washes over whiter than before, his prized Californian tan disappearing faster than Reed Richards’ gorgeous wife.  “Whoever my have told you that I had something to do with this, Steven, is mistaken.”

“I know you’re not a killer, hell collecting your debts probably keeps you up late at night.”  I should probably stop there, but I go for broke instead, “do your bodyguards still keep the hall light on for you?”

“Is this how far we’ve fallen?  Let me say, for a man who prides himself on betrayal; you have too much nerve.”

“Maybe I do,” I keep my speech slow and calm, if only to insult him further.  “No matter what I do to make amends, you only come back to throw it in my face anyway.”

He folds his hands into a pyramid and lets himself lean backward.  Fuck, I’m not playing this right; I’ve been out of the game much too long.  “A check,” He says, “can only heal so much.  You’re not the one who lost his brother.”

Christobal sits up immediately, “this is what its all bout isn’t it!”  Yes, now I remember, it all over the news, your right hand man shot in the daylight!  You come looking for me; after all it is you who did the same to me those years ago, what delicious irony.”

The laughing starts, he doesn’t even make his usual apologies each time he sounds of a pig.  My blood begins to boil; I’m all alone with this asshole and my thought spin intricate webs of what I can do him before his guards rush in.  Likely, he sees the change in my expression, within a minute his laughter begins to quiet and I wonder just how red my eyes had become.

“Don’t do anything stupid Steven; my people can be in here in seconds.”

His laughter is dead, “I only need half a second to end your life, Chris.  I’m not trying to make more enemies tonight, have enough sense to grant me that.”

It’s my turn to smile, “Frank Castle still owes me a ton of favors.”

“You and your friends, do you always associate yourself with such questionable figures?”

“They get things done when I need them, and who needs bribes when the information I keep secret is so valuable?”

He’s fidgeting again, a nervous tap dance is audible under his desk, “you always have been bad for business Mister Grant, but I do not know who has it out for you.”

“I am the target then?”

“From what I hear, yes.  Killing you isn’t enough; someone has a bad personal vendetta he’s looking to collect.”

Sliding my hand under my jacket, I wrap my fingers around my pistol.  I make my motions deliberately slow, removing my firearm from my waist and set it on his desk.  “I’ve made a great deal of enemies in my day, but there aren’t many who have anything horrible personal against me.  Though that list is small, you’re right there at the top.”

“Come now, why would I bother drudging up all this history?  There’s no money for me in your death.”

“But you know of the plot.”

“Of the plot, sure, I’ve heard things.”

“And?”

“Steven, I run some of the more profitable houses in this city, some of the shadiest characters spend their hard stolen money.  I make it my business to be aware of things, but never involved.  Lest, people that owe me money wind up dead before I can collect.”

“Sensible policy.”

“Indeed, so when I say you are the target, be assured it is all I know.  Someone with a lot of pull wants you dead in specific ways, though I do not know who.”

I stand from my seat and return my sidearm to its home, “My condolences for you friend and all that, but rest assured with all the rumbling I’ve heard,” he pauses for a little over dramatic effect, “this has only begun.”

“Thanks Chris, but if that’s all you got, I’ll be on my way.”

“Before you go,” he speaks up before I touch the door, the same two guards walk through the door with the slight touch of a button under his desk.  “Formalities, I’m afraid.  I hope you understand I have a reputation to maintain.”

The pair of goons walks in and out without a word said between them.  Pulled from the office, I become a spectacle yet again for the mass of criminals that wish to look upon me.  The crowds turn their whispers, guessing at what my business with Christobal could be as the pair tosses me out onto the street.

“You get what you wanted?”  The blue dressed thug speaks up as soon as the door closes.  “Or will this be even more fun for us?”

I roll my knuckles in the palm of my left hand, “You really think I’m some straight arrow big shot, do you?”

“And do you think we’re intimidated by some knuckles popping?”

“Fair enough, so long as you think you know what you’re getting yourselves into.”

The blue suited man steps into the background, slipping off his ridiculous coat and loosening his tie, “Early,” he says, “Soften him up a little, will ya?”

Earl is a large man; he’s got a couple inches on me and built like a lineman.  Like the lanky man in the pair I slip off my jacket, hoping my calm demeanor will give me some edge.

A massive fist muscles its way at my face.  Dodging it is like avoiding a train, Earl may be a massive fucker, but he’s slower than a retard in calculus.  “What’s the matter Earl?”  I taunt him a bit, “Too sober for you?”

I let him swing another five times; he’s a typical thug, only aiming for my face.  I’m only two paces left of where we first started our dance.  He swings again.  I bend back, pivoting on my left foot; I put my body into motion.

He hasn’t a clue what’s coming.

My torso turns on a dime before he’s able to recover from his punch.  He’s stepped forward, hyper-extending that power arm of his, and I couldn’t ask for a better set up.  I slam my elbow into the bridge of his nose with all my force behind me.  Blood pours out like a river from his mouth and nose; two teeth even fall from his jaw.  I double back to finish the job, sending the rear of my elbow back into the same wound.

Earl is dazed, to say the least.  I have to give him credit though, the idiot just doesn’t know when to fall down and bleed.  Shaking off his pain, he rushes straight at me.  The thug in blue thinks I am not paying attention thinks I’m too distracted to hear the hammer on his revolver click back.  I pretend to miss it, give him all the confidence I want him to have, all the while facing down the raging bull coming at me.

Two explosions rock the air, traveling as thunder the sound drowns Earls’ impact on the pavement.  The raging bull is put down with two .357’s in his skull.  There isn’t a single breath left in him.

I turn and release my weapon from its home.  Staring down a shaken thug, my front sight centered on the blurred sight of his neck.  A small voice inside me teases me, taunting me to squeeze my trigger.  My finger is as tight as my aim, but I know I won’t shoot him, “way to kill your buddy dipshit.  I’ve seen morons sucking on a joint with better reaction times.”

He doesn’t know what to think, hell its probably the first time he’s even pulled the trigger.  The overdressed thug stammers something I can’t make out and I give up on the thought of hurting him.  It’d be like kicking a dead horse anyway.

I move to the pole where I left my jacket.  Cursing the fact that I ruined another shirt tonight, I start to make my way back to the street.  A gunshot rings; the bullet does not come close to hitting me.

I’m more pissed when I turn around, “go home before the cops get here.  Shit, if you start now, you could get a ticket to Mexico and disappear.”

He does not drop his weapon.

I shrug and turn around.  “You’ve got to be the only punk left in the world to carry a revolver.”  I laugh and keep walking.  The dumbass couldn’t believe what had happened, he’s completely lost and I don’t have to look at his face to know it.  “You got three shots left, I have six, who do you think is going to win this?”

Blue-boy cannot say anything; I’ll wager another minute and a half until he wets himself.  Knowing there is nothing left to say, I return to moving and make my way to the street that the cabbies stop.  I don’t bother to look back; instead, I walk another three blocks before I see a cab.

* * *

Its four thirty by the time I step out of the cab, I have just enough time for a shower and maybe some breakfast before work.  I try to slide the door open slowly, trying like hell not to wake Amanda.

There in the darkness, is something makes my heart almost stop.  “Amanda?”  I whisper, and not entirely sure why.  However, she doesn’t stir.  A book settled close to her body, and hanging from one hand, even in the darkness; I know what she found.  Goddamn, she has my Silver Star.

“Marc?”  She still uses my first name, “is this why mom left?”

Her tired voice is shaking, “Kiddo,” I think my voice is far worse as a huge pain of guilt hits my gut, “that isn’t something you need to concern yourself.”

“Is it true?”  She asks and she is still half-asleep, “do you really kill people?”

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