By .Longshot. 2 Comments
The howl of police sirens had carried him here, the scent of blood had driven him here, every ineffable instinct in his mind cried out to him, beckoning him forward, and they all converged here. The archer stayed perched in darkness, quietly observing as police officers poured out of their cruisers. E.M.T.'s and coroners were fast on the scene. The officers started roping off the area around the old meat packing plant, long since boarded up and condemned. The dusty two-by-fours covering one of the entrances had been ripped away. Splinters were still scattered about, despite the bulk of the wood being swept away. Investigators entered the dark building and Longshot leaped from his roost, landing quietly on the rusty tin roof. He flung open the old skylight and dove down, landing alongside a conveyor belt. The police entered and were met with the sight of the archer standing there, shoulders bathed in the pale moonlight. They drew their guns, but one of the investigators interjected, gesturing for them to lower their weapons. "Easy, fellas." he said in a faded Irish brogue, "I think this one's wit us."
The investigator walked up, putting one hand in his suit pocket and extending the other to the archer. "Detective Rafferty, Boston P.D."
Longshot shook the detective's hand and replied, "Longshot. What's going on here?"
"See for yerself." the detective answered, looking back to his men, one of whom flicked the switches, flooding the big, open factory floor with flickering fluorescent light. Longshot looked over the machinery to see a large clearing of cement floor, four dead bodies scattered across it. It had hit him the moment he came in. Blood. The scent was unmistakable.
"We got a call about some sorta fight brewin' down here..." said the detective, pointing around at the bloodshed, "From what the guy told us, it matched up with an obscure fightin' ring held once a month around the world. They've held three 'a these things in Boston so far. Every month, they scrub the place dry and move to a different venue. This time, we got here before they could clean up. This time, we got real bodies instead 'a bits an' pieces 'a John's and Jane's in the Boston River."
"How big is this operation?" Longshot asked.
"INTERPOL big. There've been fights like this all ova the world. Some 'a these champs are metahuman. No real deals, no big threats, but powerful enough to explain why that gentleman ova there is missin' a piece 'a his head and there were no shots fired. These are only the last fighters 'a the night. God knows how many others bit the dust tonight. We got a chance to put this thing to a stop here and now. Let's not waste it flappin' our gums. Let's get to work."
The crime scene was cordoned off and the bodies were draped in white sheets, every piece of potential evidence marked in place to avoid tampering. Longshot and Detective Rafferty walked carefully across the cold concrete floor, observing the details. The archer stopped dead in his tracks, a familiar scent cutting through the fowl odor of blood. He took a second whiff. It was unmistakable. He marched across the killing floor towards one of the lifeless masses shrouded in white. Dropping to one knee, he took a final breath, in the hope that he was wrong. He lifted the sheet and confirmed his fears. He nearly recoiled in horror, gasping for air as he struggled to retain control. Still, the signs of anguish were all about him. He slumped on his knees, choking back tears as he bowed his head closer to the lifeless face glaring up at him.
"Someone you know?" asked Detective Rafferty, approaching from behind.
"Yes..." Longshot replied quietly, gently brushing the fingertips of his trembling hand against the pale, ice cold hand of the dark haired girl who lay dead before him, "Yes, she is."
FOUR YEARS EARLIER
A group of men stood around in a circle, chanting and screaming and laughing. They had money in their hands and hope in their eyes. They wanted blood. A big, thick man with arms nearly as big as his gut roared as he swung a switchblade at his opponent, a little girl, no older than eleven. The ferocity in her eyes matched the anger in his, but she raised not a sound as she weaved effortlessly around his attacks. Finally, one of his moves followed through and his fist crashed into her rib cage like a truck hitting glass. She fell back, and he towered over her, belly shaking with each sinister laugh. He bent down, raising his knife to finish the job, but suddenly, her hand shot up and pulled his wool cap down over his eyes. The heel of her oversized work boot slammed into his groin and, in the midst of his shock, she took hold of his arm and forced his own knife into his chest. With a shove, he came tumbling to the ground, dust blowing off the dark street as he hit with a loud THUD.
The crowd was silent. The crowd was still. They finally ended their shared, lengthy stare of disbelief before breaking into an uproar, cheering on the little girl. Money was passed around. Bets were collected. The next challenger stepped forth, another giant, wreaking of the same confidence as all the others, the delusion that THEY would be the one to best her. The raven haired little girl simply stared up at the man, nostrils flaring as she wiped the blood from the shoulder of her gray sweatshirt.
The challenger raised his fist, but he screamed as a tiny metallic disk sliced into his bicep. Everyone's eyes turned skyward to see a dark figure against the moonlight, standing tall as he pulled the string of his bow. "Who the hell is that?!" one of them asked. "Who cares? Let's go!" another yelled as they all dispersed. An arrow struck the side of a mailbox around where they were gathering, gas spewing from a golden cartridge on the side and forcing them to either run or gall prey to its effects. The girl backed away, escaping the reach of the smoke. A few silhouettes remained standing, somehow resisting the effects of the gas. The man from the rooftops jumped down into the fog with them, their vaporous veil made translucent for the girl by the street light above. They approached him from all sides, and he took them on with an effortless chain of attacks, sending them each to the ground in short order. As soon as the fight was done, the girl turned and ran for her life. She rounded a corner only to slam headfirst into a brick wall. As she hit the ground, she looked up and saw that it was the man, the archer in the night. He wore a red coat with a silver gauntlet over the right arm, a quiver secured by four straps that crossed his chest, and a gray mask, one eye glowing red. He looked down at her with his arms crossed, and the girl knew this was it. She knew what would happen next.
The man bent down on one knee, and even through his mask, his expression softened. "Are you okay?" he asked, reaching out to her. The girl was baffled. This wasn't what she was expecting. It was entirely alien to her. It just felt... wrong. Without warning, she kicked him in the chin and ran down an alley. The archer rubbed his aching chin. He should have been able to block that, even at such short range. This little girl's kick was too fast to hear coming, and her body language didn't give any early warning.
The girl ran down the alley until the strong hands of the archer were under her arms and she was hoisted off the ground. "Let me go!" she ordered, kicking wildly at him.
"Tell me what you were doing around those men." the man asked calmly.
"Get away!" the girl screamed, "I don't have to tell you anything, no leave me alone!"
"Why were you there?" the man asked, raising his voice a little.
"Either I fight or I die! No one gives a sh*t about me, so why should you?!"
Longshot gave no answer. There was no answer to give. As the sound of sirens began to echo in the distance, he jumped up onto a dumpster, flipping up onto a fire escape, all the while keeping a secure hold on the girl as he reached the rooftops, running through New York in the dead of night. She fell asleep in his arms.
Some time later, the girl's eyes drifted open. She flung herself upright, looking around frantically for whatever threat surrounded her, but she found none. "It's alright." called a voice from the darkness. Out stepped the man, holding a cup of hot cocoa. "There's nothing to be afraid of here. Nobody wants to hurt you. Here..." he bent down on one knee alongside the bed and offered her the cocoa. She cautiously accepted, taking a tiny sip to test it.
"Whether you want to answer my questions or not, you can stay here." he said, rising to his feet and walking towards the door, "You'll always be safe here."
Before his hand touched the doorknob, he heard the girl whisper behind him, "I was five..."
He turned to face her again. She had her knees tucked into her chest, staring down at the floor as she continued, "I was five when my father dumped us on the street. He said that me and my mom weren't worth the time. Mom made some money by selling herself to men. Enough to feed me. She went without. One day, her boss caught her taking more of the money than he said she deserved. He said she was stealing from him. She tried to explain that it was to feed me, but he took out a knife... he cut her... and I ran before he could get me, too. She died because of me. Since then, I've had to fend for myself. I make enough money in the fights to eat."
"And that's why you do it?" Longshot asked, kneeling beside her.
She was silent for a moment, finally and calmly answering, "No... I do it because I like it. I love it. I love the feeling of defeating someone, feeling their bones crack in your hands, humiliating them, and finally, ending them..."
Longshot was stoic as he processed what he had just heard. "What's your name?" he asked.
"Olivia." she replied, "Olivia Markopolos."
"Well, Olivia, my name's Longshot. I'm going to trust you. Can you trust me?"
"That's not a real name." she retorted.
"Longshot. It's not a real name. And I don't even know what you look like under the mask."
The archer sighed. "Longshot's the only real name I have." he replied, "But if you must know..." he pulled the mask from over his head, revealing the tapestry of hideous scars that now formed his face. She hardly reacted to the sight. "I was born with the name Paxton."
"Okay..." she replied, rolling back into bed, "I trust you."
Longshot smiled softly and put his mask back on, whispering as he left, "Good night, Olivia."
"I tried to fix her." he explained to Detective Rafferty as they stood on the rooftop of the Police Department, the half-moon the only witness to their conversation, "I let her live there and tried to cure the blind rage inside her. I tried to protect her from the world, and protect the world from her. I thought it worked... obviously, I was wrong."
"So, she fell back into her old game, only this time, she lost." said Detective Rafferty, lighting a cigarette. The infernal, bitter stench filled Longshot's nostrils and the sound of flaking ash grated his patience. "Well, don't worry," the detective continued, "We got our best people on this case. We'll get the one who killed your girl, and every other sick piece 'a sh*t involved."
"Do you know Detective Spitzer?" Longshot asked.
"I did." answered the detective, flicking the ash from his cigarette,"He's dead."
Longshot controlled his surprise, slowly asking, "How long...?"
"Two months ago. Heart attack." Rafferty explained, "Not the way you'd expect a guy like that to go. Made a lotta enemies, but always the right enemies. Good cop. Good guy."
"That's why I picked him."
"Picked him for what?"
"Never mind. How did you know him?"
"I worked wit 'im a while back, way back, actually. When I was startin' out." he took a long drag of his cigarette and told his story as smoked billowed from between his lips, "This guy, he hands Spitzer a fifty and tells him to look elsewhere. Spitz just looks down at the cash inniz hand like it's diseased, throws it in the guy's face and brings 'im in. Doesn't even turn 'round and grab the cash anyway. When I watched him do that, I knew what kinda cop I wanted to be... what kinda man I wanted to be. No matter what it cost me, I wanted to represent the same things he did."
"There'll never be another like him. But I know one that's come close." said Longshot, tossing a small golden cylinder with a set of buttons on the side to the detective's feet, "Congratulations, Rafferty. You're my new contact." With that, he flipped backwards, firing a line from his grapple gauntlet as he swung off into the city.
Chaotic sounds filled the darkness as Longshot ripped down everything in his Boston homestead, throwing it all to the ground. He ripped off hi mask and threw it across the room, falling with his back against the wall and sliding to the ground. "Dammit, Olivia..." he sobbed quietly into his hands, "God damn you."