Moon Knight, A Twist of Fate, Epilogue

I hate hospitals, always have.  Everything about these places gets to me, but it’s a temporary discomfort.  Stepping out of the elevator into the recovery ward, the smell assaults my nose instantly.  There’s so much alcohol in the air my arm starts to ache as I pass the nurses station.

Frenchie’s room is just down this hall and I can already hear his voice.  I listen just outside the door as the French bastard lays it on thick to the woman in his room.  Even here, he’s pulling tail like I never could.

Asshole.

I try not to laugh as I step inside, “Long time no see,” he holds up a hand while the nurse finishes writing her number on one of his business cards.

“I love American women.”  He laughs just after she leaves.  “Accents just turn them to putty.”

“Maybe just yours pal.”

“Don’t be jealous, Marc, and what?  No Flowers?”

“Keep pushing my buttons and you’ll be here another month.”

“Promises, promises.”

Standing at the foot of his bed, I pull the card that the ladies at the office made me deliver.  “I think Chelsea signed my name too.”

“Always so full of jokes, did you burn the place down while I was gone?”

“Not the main office,” I almost laugh but instead I’m counting how many storage buildings we lost a few weeks back.  “Nah, Chelsea kept things running in your vacation.”

He rolls out of his bed and stuffs the card into his bag, “She’s much too efficient for you.”

“I keep saying she needs a raise.”

“Then start sleeping with her so the rumors stop before they begin.”

“You’re hilarious, you ready?”

“Do you not see the bags packed?”

He was ready to get the hell out of there hours before I got there; he hates these places as much as I do.  It only took the length of the last question for him to grab the bag his secretary brought him after he got out of the ICU.  “The food get to you yet?”

“It isn’t so bad after you spend a week eating through a tube.”

“I bet.”

The nurses all wave good-bye and the cheesy fucker starts blowing kisses their way.  “The red-head wanted me to give you her number.  She thinks Amanda is adorable.”

We step into the elevator but not before I can sneak a look to the woman, he motioned to, “Did you get it for me?”

“Of course, how little do you think of me?”

I apologize and he hands over the cards with numbers scribbled on the back, “damn, does she move a lot?”

“A few of us think it’s about time you got some female company other than Amanda.”

Rolling my eyes, “look man, she and I have a lot of catch up time to make up for.”

He looks up to me, only because I’m taller, with that look that could pull the truth from almost anyone.  “How many nights?”

The elevator is empty with the exception of the two of us, “Only three, and she knows about it.”

“How much of it?”

“Most.”

“What aren’t you telling her?”

The doors pull open and we step outside.  The conversation dies until we walk outside the hospital doors and he reminds me of his question.  “It’s been generally quiet, just the usual thugs and guns-for-hire.”

“Secrets, Marc, you know they’re not good.”

The company car pulls around and I put his bag in the trunk.  A privacy screen separates us from the driver and he won’t let the question die.

“Aren’t you supposed to be taking things easy?”

“Don’t change the subject.”  He says sharply.

Damn it, “Alright, I do have this weird feeling that something is going on.”

“Explain.”

Traffic is going to take an hour to get through and I give up the games.  “Someone saved my ass two weeks ago and wrote something about a ‘guardian angel’ in blood near me.”

“Not a good sign.”

“Tell me about it.  That stupid psychic connection is working when I’m sleeping again, whatever the hell it fucking is.  It’s weak but I know she’s out there somewhere.”

“She’s not the most sane human being.”

“I wasn’t either,” I admit, “but it gets worse.”

“How so?”

The driver pulls in front of the office building faster than I expected, I guess traffic wasn’t as bad as I thought it might.  “Amanda has a Sleepwalker.”

He doesn’t have anything to say to that and we just step out of the car.  Heading to our floor, applause rumbles like thunder as Frenchie makes his appearance to an atrium flooded with employees genuinely happy to see him.  I let Frenchie enjoy his moment and head into my office, “He’s outside,” I tell Chelsea as she bolts for the door.

A pile of work is waiting for me, stacks of papers needing my signature, nothing too pressing.  I get to work while the commotion outside keeps everyone distracted long enough to forget any questions they might have.  It’s a peaceful enough afternoon until my phone starts ringing.

“This is Specter.”  I answer.

“Yeah, so is this.”

“Home from school so soon?”

“Dad, it’s three-thirty.”

It still sounds weird, but I like it a little more each time she says it.  “Don’t worry, I didn’t forget.”

“Better not.”

“Why, what’re you going to do if I did?”

She laughs on the other end; I could always take a nap and send someone to remind you.”

Fucking Sleepwalkers are nosey sons of bitches.  “You win, but I have an hour left here to finish up.”

“Okay.”

She hangs up rather quickly but she’s been in a better mood since she started school again.  I have to admit, I’m not the biggest fan of her going to Catholic School, but at least it’s safer than the public system.

“Who was that?”

Frenchie strolls right in and makes himself comfortable, just like he always does.  “Amanda called to remind me about our house hunting.”

He laughs at me, “No more Penthouses, Mister Grant?”

I change my voice, “Nah, I’d rather slum it with a nice place to park my taxi.”

He gives me an odd look, not sure, what to think about hearing that voice again, “Knock it off,” I laugh, “I’ve only got the last one being cleaned before it’s sold.”

“How many was that again?”

“Four.”

“I thought he only had three.”

“I did a little digging; I guess Moony had his own digs for a time.”  We laugh about it, all my elaborate antics from my war on crime that never seemed to go anywhere but drive me insane.  “Apparently when you have MPD, you can have secrets from yourself.”

“Who knew?”  Frenchie smirked, but I cut him off before he could say anything more.

“Psychologists, apparently.”

“Smartass.”  His smirk stayed painted on his face, it was easy to see he was ready to get back to his life all over again, who could blame him, and it wasn’t like him to be beaten to a bloody pulp.

“You say that like it’s something new.”

* * *

Darkness falls in a matter of hours.  It’s the night that changes New York into a much different beast.  Even with the over population of self-important super heroes, there still exist neighborhoods where it’s much safer to simply stay indoors at night.

A college student is home for a long weekend, and she is nearly running to return home.  She carries a plastic bag of groceries in one hand, mace in the other.  A noise startles her, but she knows better than to look back, she quickens her pace.

The noise is louder a second time and she starts to worry.  Almost like an animal howl, she hears it a third time but now she hears a different pitch.  That feeling fills her gut; she knows she’s being followed.

The groceries fall and she starts sprinting for home.

She only has a few blocks, for a track runner on scholarship it should be easy.  There’s a new sound, almost like a gallop.  A sound like a dogs’ nails scraping along the ground, and gaining on her.  She’s running harder than she had in any competition, breathing heavy as fear pumps adrenaline straight into her legs.  It’s hurts to run this hard, but it doesn’t matter, it’s getting closer.

She tries to push herself harder, only one more block.

Two large hands on her back push her to the ground.  Stumbling down, her jeans tear against the loose rocks as her body tumbles across potholes and uneven pavement.  The student crawls to her feet and tries to run, but the hands grab her shirt and lift her feet off the ground.  The fabric tears from her hundred-pound frame and whatever has her throws her to the ground, her face smacks the pavement hard.

An animal howls and the student prays, not wanting to look up.  It twists her onto her back and she freezes.  A giant wolf stands over her as if she was in the middle of some horror movie.  She wants to wake up; she wants it all to be a nightmare.

Its face snarls at her exposed and bleeding flesh, almost as if it enjoyed the sight over her.  A blade-sharp claw tears up the centerline of her shirt and she whispers, “Please no,” over and over.

The monster doesn’t want to hear her; it licks its lips as more flesh is exposed.  She lies there, unable to move and it runs a coarse black tongue over her chest and abdomen.  Tasting her sweat, smelling her fear, the monster howls over its conquest.

It crawls on its hands, sniffing at her flesh and licking the tears off her face.  She pleads again, but the monster laughs.  Bringing another claw he finishes what he started, cutting away the last piece of fabric that covered her chest.

The nineteen year old cries out and the monster howls with her.

She only thought monsters were just a story, something for the campfires and movies.  The minutes tick by like hours as the Wolf-monster tastes her sweat again, torturing her with the thoughts of what is coming.  She tries to fight back, but the massive creature has her limbs pinned by its weight.  It crouches just over her, tearing away her pants with yet another sharp claw, enjoying the fear she wears on her face.  A leather-like finger explores her exposed breast as the pants are torn from under her.

It sniffs the air for a newer scent and almost smiles at the girl again.  She turns her head as it licks her chest with that black tongue, her eyes are clasped shut and she feels that claw run down the length of her body without any pain.

The monster doesn’t cut into her skin; it only stops at the waistband of her red panties.  She gasps, feeling the claw pry under the elastic and it slowly cuts the fabric away her center.  Halfway down the front of her groin the monster stops, her fearful blue eyes pleading with him to let her go.  His hand, the leather-like skin, feels hot against the soft skin beneath the panties.  Tears trail down her face and the monster sniffs the air again, pulling his hand from her front, the monster clips the thin elastic from the girls’ hips.  Pulling at the last piece of fabric that covered her nakedness, he howls again.

Crawling over top of her, he licks her face, as would an affectionate dog.  Her cries intensify, pleading it to stop once more.  She prays for someone to help her and as her hope runs out the monster stops at the base of her groin.  She clenches her eyes shut again, turning her head away.  Waiting and waiting for it to be over, but the monster doesn’t move for several minutes.  The wolf is sniffing the air again, but she doesn’t look up.

He growls like something just invaded his territory and the girl feels as though she has been split apart.  She cries and he howls to cover the sound.  It stops again and covers the girls’ mouth with a massive paw.  She cries out in pain instead of fear, muffled by the hand covering her face her tears puddle under her face.

Another growl.

Her eyes follow the wolfs’ gaze behind her, to a figure in red.  She gasps in pain as the monster pulls out of her, standing on its skinnier back legs as he brandishes both tooth and claw, roaring at the figure.

She tries to cover herself, but the monster won’t allow her to move.  A crossbow comes into focus for the college student, a bolt shining through the air smacks the beast square in the chest.  Its’ howling turns to painful yelping, he grasps at the bolt pulling the silver tip from his chest.

The woman brings up the bow again; with careful aim, a second bolt pierces the creatures’ yellow eye.  The massive beast tumbles over and the figure kneels down to the victimized young woman, “There are more, we must hurry.”

* * *

This Penthouse used to feel like something, nothing ever remotely happy; it seems even now an empty reminder of the shit I’ve gone through.  The carpet is replaced; thankfully, no one asks questions about blood when you pay them copiously and even re-paint the walls free.  Everything is in storage now, but I’m not sure if I’m going to go ahead and buy new stuff.  I hadn’t a clue how much white was in this house until Amanda moved in.

She pointed that much out.

“I liked this one,” she hands me a packet of papers across our plastic table that served for an interim coffee table.  One hell of a gargantuan mansion far enough outside the city that she’d probably need a helicopter to take her to school.

“You would.”

“The realtor knew you, didn’t she?”

I shrug; “I think I’m in the bugle more often than Spider-Man these days.”

She laughs and fingers through some of the more modest houses.  Over the next hour and a half, we narrow the choices down to three almost identical houses.  Two of which aren’t very far into upstate.

I promise her to look them over as a very familiar feeling snakes its way into my brain.  She runs off to take a shower and get some rest and I make my way to my bedroom.  The sight of her should startle me, but I’ve been in this business long enough to know that death can be a temporary measure.  Though even death couldn’t make her change that wardrobe, the long blood-red cloak does very little for the figure I know that’s underneath.

“I thought you were wealthy.”

I shrug, “I thought you were dead.”

Scarlet pulls her head down, running a hand through her short hair.  “Bull-dyke is a new look for you,” I try to keep her mind in reality as long as possible.  As far as crazy people that think themselves as heroes, we make up ninety percent of that cake.

“Is your personal vendetta settled?”

“It was you that saved my ass, wasn’t it?”

“Naturally, I knew you were in trouble.”

“So let me guess, its time to cash in the favor?”

She’s quiet for less than a minute; I think I just insulted her.  “You’ve forgotten.”

“Forgot what?”

Scarlet calmly walks to the calendar pinned to my wall just outside the bathroom door.  “What month is it?”

The realization hits me like a silver bullet in the chest, “Mating season.”

“The so-called heroes never bother with it; I could use your help.”

“How many?”

“I don’t know, I’ve been able to stop some, but tonight I wasn’t so lucky.”

Fuck, goddamn Werewolves.  All sorts of fears run through my head, this time of year was always bad, but new ideas spark up with a face that I can focus on.  My little girl.  The wolves wouldn’t touch her, she’s too young, but youth only lasts so long.  “Are you hunting tonight?”

She nods and she perks up as the shower halts, I don’t like her sudden spark of attention, “The Bridge.  Midnight.”

She smiles, “Our Bridge.”

“Yeah, that.”  Sighing, I try to push her out of the window, “Look I have someone here that needs an explanation.”

“A new lover?”  She asks with a little more interest than I’d like.

“No, My daughter.”

She leaves through my open window without saying another word and right after in walks Amanda.  He sopping wet hair hanging down like loose string.  “Who was that?”

“That was Scarlet, someone I used to know.”

“She’s a badguy?”

“I wouldn’t’ know what to call her, to be honest.  But I need to help her.”

To her credit, she’s not disappointed, not that I can see anyway.  “More bad men?”

“Nope,” I breathe in as I’m about speak the about what shouldn’t exist.  “Werewolves this time.”

She tries not to laugh, and it always does sound somewhat ridiculous.  “Don’t forget the silver bullets then.  I’m going to watch a movie.”

Amanda closes the door behind her and I’m almost awe-struck at her response.  Shrugging it off I pull my costume from the closet along with the few weapons I’ve left out of storage.

* * *

Her weapons lay across a large table and she inspects every piece.  Removing a damaged section of her leather armor, Stained Glass Scarlet hands it over to a young girl waiting silently behind her.  “I have help this time.”  She speaks without looking back.  “He understands.”

“You’re our only hero, Scarlet.”

Scarlet turns about, placing a hand on the young girls’ shoulder, “Moon Knight is like me, we will avenge you, but tell me, how is Bridget?”

“In shock, denying anything ever happened.”

“Care for her Sally, she needs a friend that knows her pain.”

The pregnant blonde girl looks down as she remembers that night almost a year ago.  Her voice softens as emotion wrecks her mind.  “We will all care for her; it’s the only thing that helps.”

Both women share an uneasy smile and Scarlet goes back to filling her quivers, and strapping a silver plated machete to her right thigh.  Her armor is quickly replaced and the ammunition replenished, there was only one thing left to do.

Ten young women of about the same age – anywhere between 16 and 21, the wolves had their tastes as far as age was concerned – all stop their conversation as Scarlet emerges from her armory.  All eyes are on her as she walks the length of the long hall to the examination room.  An old asylum that was abandoned after Ravencroft was built served a wonderful purpose for Scarlet; it only took a few moments to turn the disheveled building into a massive refuge for these young victims of the wolves.  Each woman has enough privacy, but very few wanted it.  Women from the Church volunteered their time to help these women cope, but each woman generally sought help from each other instead of the old Nuns.

Scarlet steps softly inside the examination room, nodding to the doctor who just finished looking over the girl Scarlet had brought just an hour before.  The doctor sighed, “This thing better be dead.”

“Yes, I was able to kill it, was I too late?”

“Yes.”  Anger in her face as she throws her used gloves into a trashcan, “Are you sure abortion is out of the question?  Most of the girls don’t survive…”

“No!  I don’t even want you to utter such a word.  Have you any morals!”

“Says the woman caked in blood.”

Scarlet runs her fingers through Bridget’s’ blonde hair.  Forcing herself to look away from the doctor, “Just find her some clothing.”

The doctor mutters something under her breath as she leaves, and Scarlet allows her to her opinions not saying another word to her.  The armor-clad woman sits by the young girl, almost catatonic after her violation.  “I’m sorry I failed you,” she whispers before leaving the room.

Another long walk takes Scarlet to a makeshift alter, a room she calls a private chapel.  Each window painted black, the only light in the room comes from a number of candles sitting blow a large wooden crucifix.

The door snaps shut behind her as she slides the looking glass closed from inside.  All alone with nothing but a few candles lit and a pained Savior looking down on her, Scarlet stands against the door as she removes her armor piece by piece.  Kneeling at the feet of her professed savior naked as the day she was born, her sad eyes look up to the wooden statue, looking into its face she begins to weep.

“I’m sorry Lord, I failed another.”

A drawer slides out from under the candles; Scarlet places it on the floor at her knees.  She removes the twisted blade and holds it up, between her and the Crucifix.  “Please forgive me.”

She whispers a prayer and digs a seventh line into the top of her forearm.  A glass inside the drawer catches her blood as she allows it to fall from the open wound to fill the bottom of the glass vial.  She replaces the vial with another beside a candle labeled with the new girls’ name:  Bridget.  “I remove my guilt with your blessing, Oh Lord.”

The vial holding a cooled crimson liquid is brought to her lips by her own hand.  “May the blood of innocence spilled by the evil I’ve slain heal my sins.”

She tips back her head, allowing the cool syrup of Bridget’s’ blood to coat her throat.  Scarlet crosses herself after reciting a prayer to the Virgin Mother, standing as though she had been re-energized by her ceremony, snapping her armor back into place ever so slowly.

* * *

Midnight, just like I promised the crazy dead woman, go figure she’s late.  The wind is terrible up here; a storm is on the horizon.  I don’t hear her, but that damn connection we supposedly have tells me she’s coming up behind me.

“So, you’re looking well.”

“I’m sorry about the hair; it often got in my way.”

“A wolfie used it against you, didn’t he?”

“She.”

“What’d you do, attack a den?”

She smiles and I haven’t a clue why, “it wasn’t intentional, Moon Knight.”

“We keeping this professional this time around, Scarlet?”

She steps across a steel beam, “I have responsibilities now, I prefer it that way.”  She leads me back across the bridge in a gusting wind, and at least I have the intelligence to use a lower beam.  The crosswind keeps picking up, but the bridge steel blocks it from catching my cape and sending me over the edge.  My psychotic partner isn’t so concerned about such a thing.

We make it back to the rooftops in record time and she quiets me every time I try to bring up conversation.  She hears howling at least two blocks to our East and she makes off like a bandit, leaping across rooftops fast enough to make Murdock jealous.

A girls’ scream fills my ears and I take the situation a little more seriously.  Overtaking Scarlet, I leave her far behind and leap right off a roof right into the fray, disturbing a large wolf-man from his prey.  My cape catches the air and I glide slow enough to toss four silver darts into the fuckers’ back.

His attention is all mine.

My boots hit the ground a couple yards from his would-be victim and I extend my staff.  It backs away from me, likely smelling all the silver I’m packing.  I inch close to him while Scarlet keeps watch from above.

He snarls like a fool.  Any Werewolf that’s been around a while should know better than to fight me.

He must be new.

He takes his chances and leaps at me, his claws coming down toward me.  I stand my ground but drop the staff and hurl a blade right into his face.  Stepping aside the fucker takes in a mouth full of gutter water.

The blade in his cheek hurts him, the fool whimpers like an injured dog, “C’mon big bad wolfman, I’m only human, I’m easy prey.  Right?”

He yanks the blade from his face, but the silver plating has flaked off and should be starting its way through his bloodstream.  The dumbass is fucked if he doesn’t turn tail and run home, but I’ve pissed him off enough to stand and fight.  The over-sized dog growls and I just wave him on in to take his best shot.

Silver blades pop out of my gauntlets with a slight flick of my wrist.  He thinks it over for a second; but he still strolls right on over, rubbing his claws like it makes some kind of difference to me.  If he’s been changing for long he should know about the silver oxide poisoning his blood, but he keeps coming.  He’s going to be too slow to put up much fight, but he’s going to try anyway.

The fucker is blood drunk.

It’s all a little lackluster at this point; I shouldn’t have taken the fight out of him so fast.  I’m able to weave around each swipe.  Such a high concentration of silver in his blood is slowing him down fast, almost too fast.  It gets boring rather quick, and to hell with it, I flip out a silver bladed knife from my belt and stab him in the chest.

He howls and yelps as his misery comes to an end.

Repelling from the roof she comes between the girl and me.  She’s not bad off; we caught the wolf just in time before anything bad had happened, she just a little banged up no clothing torn.  She’ll walk away from all this after about a year of intense counseling.  She breaks away from Scarlet uttering some kind of speech, and runs over to wrap her arms around me.  Thanking me over and over, it gets to the point of being annoying, and quick.

I have no idea who she is, but it all comes close to home as her brunette hair and young face remind me all too much of Amanda.

Scarlet takes her away, to wherever she is hiding these days and I climb to the rooftops.  Listening to the howls of the city’s full moon wolf population.

* * *

Stained Glass Scarlet lights another candle in her chapel.  She is accompanied by a pregnant girl this time, Scarlet turns with a smile on her face.  Another full moon passed and only a single victim harmed, it’s almost worth celebrating tonight.

The rising sun is defeated by the blackened window marks her victory.  Scarlet sits almost in meditation as her wounds suffered the night previous are dressed. Sally stitches the remnants of a fight that hadn’t gone as smoothly as most.  Six wolves slain in a sing night is worth the pain, however.

Sally’s hands roam freely with the sponge she uses to clean Scarlet.  Halting her advances, Scarlet grabs the wayward hand from her breast, “Not in here, we will disappoint Him.”

“As you wish, Scarlet.”

* * *

I watch her sleep, and hope the damn Sleepwalker stays put.  I never let her see me in costume; the bruises are enough of a toll on her.  She peaceful, probably the best sleep she’s gotten since I took her from Seattle.

Tonight scared me.  Admitting that is, hard enough, but one girl we saved looked too close like Amanda.  I got a little sloppy with another and Scarlet paid for that.  She ran off in a hurry after the sun started to raise, no good-byes or cryptic messages about fate together.

And thanks to whatever deity exists for that.

Three business cards are pinned to my door; a post-it note above them commands me in Amanda’s writing to call one of them.  Providing she’s not a blonde.  She doesn’t have her mother’s sense of humor and that’s another thing to be thankful.

* * *

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