Jackson_Hartley's forum posts

#1 Posted by Jackson_Hartley (161 posts) - - Show Bio

I've been insanely busy and very distracted. But I'm taking a small break to rest my mind and doing a little fan-fic during my downtime.

#2 Posted by Jackson_Hartley (161 posts) - - Show Bio

And the rewrite is done. Sorry about the wait.

#3 Posted by Jackson_Hartley (161 posts) - - Show Bio

Read through these, after seein them on the feedback post. These were pretty good. Some parts in the beginning were hard to understand first time round, but improved as they went along.

All in all, it was a good read.

#4 Posted by Jackson_Hartley (161 posts) - - Show Bio
#5 Posted by Jackson_Hartley (161 posts) - - Show Bio

This is pretty good for 1st person perspective; I'm crap at it myself.

#6 Edited by Jackson_Hartley (161 posts) - - Show Bio

ALL MARVEL CHARACTERS AND SETTINGS ARE THE PROPERTY OF MARVEL INC. AND THEIR RESPECTIVE AFFILIATES. I DO NOT OWN ANY RIGHTS TO ANY MARVEL INC. OWNED CHARACTERS.

Previously : City on Fire, Part 6: Bad Memories

CITY ON FIRE

Part 7

Just Another Day In the Neighborhood

Joseph Manfredi sat in his darkened office, as the light from his computer lit up his pensive face. Upon the muted screen, a woman spoke into a microphone, as the heading below read:

Super Criminal Tombstone Defeated By Unknown Vigilante.

"It would appear Mr. Lincoln has failed me,” said Joseph, as he gritted his teeth. “I should've known better than to send a moron like him.”

He pressed a button on his desk; changing the news report on his screen to static, as the sound of electronic buzzing echoed. In short time, a woman's face appeared; with near-purple hair and a rather annoyed look on her face.

“This better not be another checkup,” stated the woman. “It's only been two days since last time.”

“No, Dr. Trainer, this is not a checkup. I need you to hasten your progress on my special item.”

“Are you out of your mind?!” she yelled; her voice crisp and piercing through the screen. “There's only one operational unit. It's not a simple scrap of metal like one of Smythe's Spider-Slayers. This thing was built from tech surpassing-”

“This is not a request,” pointed Joseph. “There is a rather painful thorn trying to dig into my side and it's threatening my dreams—our dreams. Of course, if you feel I'm being too demanding, you are more than welcome to go back to being a mere lab assistant; all that genius and skill just wasting away, as you spend day after day wiping test tubes and polishing Bunsen burners.”

Joseph hid a smirk, as he watched her face soften with defeat.

“Understood, Mr. Manfredi,” she responded. “I'll do what I can, but if I move too quickly, I can't guarantee one-hundred percent that it'll work.”

“That's for me to worry about. Just do as I say. Understood?”

“... Yes. I understand.”

“Ease yourself, Carolyn. If we are successful, then we are one step closer to our goal and you... well, you'll finally get the attention you so desperately seek from beloved doctor.”

He turned off the screen and eased into his chair.

“How did you do it, father?” he asked aloud. “Spider-Man. Daredevil. The Punisher. How did you manage your empire, with men such as these always getting in your way and with so many weak-willed underlings?”

Joseph withdrew a slim black case from his breast pocket and eyed it fondly, as he continued his revery.

Never let'em see ya sweat, his father's voice echoed in his mind. If ya' get rattled, then it's blood in the water. You gotta be like steel: Unbreakable. Anyone tries to shake you up, you beat them down.

Joseph slid the case back into his pocket and patted it, as he said, “No, not like steel... I found something better.”

ELSEWHERE

Peter and Betty were walking away from the crime scene, pass the onlookers and fellow reporters in front of the bar, as she went over her notes. They'd interviewed the cops – those who would say more than, “Move along” – and a few witnesses, before they found themselves getting nowhere.

As she reread the statements and quotes she took, she asked, “Did it seem like some of those people didn't wanna tell us what they saw?”

What gave you that idea? When they said “Back off lady, I ain't seen nuthin” or when trying to bribe them with my money didn't work?”

“Our guy has to be a part of this.”

“Are you even listening to me?”

“It's no coincidence the only ones dead are Butchers and no one else.”

“You're not, are you?”

“And then there's Tombstone. Why wasn't he still in prison?”

“Maybe another stone-themed idiot wanted company and sent him a cake with a file in it... Are the Fantastic Four still in space?”

“Did he escape or did someone pay the right people?”

“See the purple martians over there playing tee-ball with those Skrulls?”

“The mystery vigilante, Tombstone, the Butchers... they're all connected somehow.”

“Maybe they're trying to start a bowling league?”

“There has to be someway to get some answers.”

“Lets see. We could ask the CIA; they're full of information. The FBI; they're also full of it. How about S.H.I.E-”

Betty whipped her hand back and struck Peter in the chest, as she stated, “That's it!”

Great Betz,” said Peter, as he rubbed his chest. “Think you could let me in on what it is?”

“I know a someone who can help; a source I used a couple years ago about corruption in the Bureau.”

“The FBI piece? Yeah, that was pretty good. Woulda' been better with one of those caricatures of Hoover in a skirt or something.”

Betty placed her hand on her hip and gave Peter a sideways glance, as she said, “Big scoop, remember? Try holding back on the yuk-yuks until we at least know a little more. Hmm?”

“... I'd knock you on your butt, but I'm no good with a camera.”

“And they laughed, when I said joining the photo club would save my life one day.”

Just follow me, Bozo,” ordered Betty, as she shook her head. “Let's go try to get some answers.”

AT THAT MOMENT

As Betty and Peter walked away, neither of them were aware of a pair of binoculars eying them from a van across the street or the man with the slick hair.

Frank Castle put down his binoculars, as he took a miniature receiver from his center console and placed it in his ear. Neither the reporter nor her photographer noticed him among the crowd, when he slipped the bug into her coat pocket.

By the description Soap had given him, he was sure she was the reporter he wanted; the one who seemed to be on the right track.

He listened carefully, as she said, “He lives in the middle of Clinton. He's a bit cranky, but he knows what he's talking about; said he still had contacts in the FBI.”

How's that supposed to help us?” her photographer asked. “I doubt Big Brother is involved in this.”

That's the CIA-.”

Frank couldn't help himself, as he said, “It's both.”

If he's still connected, he can probably find us something; facial recognition, satellite imagery, anything.”

Like the feds have their eyes-in-the-sky pointed on Hell's Kitchen twenty-four-seven.”

“You'd be surprised kid,” stated Frank, as he let them get further ahead, before turning on the van. As he began to tail them, he couldn't help but think about Micro. If these two really wanted answers, he would've been the man to ask; if he were still alive.

Frank shook the thought from his mind, as he focused on the task at hand.

Dwell on it later.

ELSEWHERE

Jon sat at the counter of a diner, on the corner of Red's block. He'd called the old man to come and meet him, not wanting to get too close to Susan and Joseph; worried more heavy hitters could show up. Tombstone was reason enough not to let his guard down. He wore a hoodie and sunglasses, while keeping his wounded as hidden as possible. He heard the bell above the door ring and checked for Red, to find the old codger walk in... with little ten year old Joseph in tow.

Jon felt his chest balk, as he glared at the old man and mouthed, [Are you f**king insane?].

Red waved him off, as he gave Joseph some money and nudge him to one of the tables.

“Be sure to order me a diet, while I talk to my friend,” Red called to him. “Grandpa needs to get some of this fat outta his ass.”

Jon watched Joseph laugh at the silly old man. The last he heard that laugh, his son was still a baby. He kept his eyes on him, as he jaunted over to a free table and waited for a waitress to come, before Red took a seat next to him at the counter.

“What the bloody hell is wrong with ya'?” Jon whispered. “Ya tryin' ta' gimme a heart attack? If Susan finds out-”

“She ain't gonna find out,” stated Red. “She's out job hunting, so I had to watch Joey.”

“I called ya here ta' keep away from them. In case ya hadn't noticed, I'm banged up for a bloody reason.”

Red looked at Jon's arm, as he asked, “So, you the one who took out the walking cinder-block?”

“Aye n' I all but blew up my arm doin' it. There's no tellin' who else might be involved in this n' if Lonnie could find me, someone else could too.”

“You keep saying this, like there's more to it than a turf war.”

“People like Lonnie are too good – n' expensive – for a simple grab for territory. I think someone's stirrin' things up between 'em n' I need to know who n' why.”

“Okay. So, why call me?”

“What the hell do ya think I called ya for? You're the one with all the damned contacts; use 'em. This ain't about a bunch of wannabe-bangers tryin' to make a name for themselves anymore; there's somethin' more to it.”

Red shook his head, as he said, “You're as bad as that reporter a few years back. I said I had contacts; doesn't mean I can just call them up snap my fingers and get what I want. Naw, I gotta work my magic; get something for something, ya get me?”

Jon sighed, as he took another look at Joseph. It was hard for him to concentrate, with his son just several feet away; the son he never got to watch grow. No first steps. No first words. Nothing.

“What's it been like for 'im?” asked Jon.

“Don't beat yourself up, son. You did what you did to keep them safe... only reason I didn't whoop your ass, when I found you on that bar's floor.”

“Just tell me.”

Red pondered for a moment, before he said, “It ain't been easy. Had two step-daddies who were as good as sh*t on a shoe, while thinking his real daddy died trying to save someone from a mugger.”

“What!?” asked Jon.

“Susan didn't want him thinking his dad left them for some skank. Better you die a hero than live as a painful reminder they weren't good enough.”

“Twist the bloody knife why don't ya'?”

“Susie wasn't the only one hurt when you left, boy. That was my baby girl and you flipped her world upside down and broke her heart. Don't you mistake my attempts to help you as complete and utter forgiveness; what they've gone through, since you left, is completely one-hundred percent your fault and don't you think for a damn second I can just forget that.”

Both men stared at each other with such contempt, the unnoticed waitress standing behind the counter – waiting to take their order – was frozen with worry; no doubt not the first time she's witnessed a fight over who was going to pay.

“Grandpaaa!” Joseph called from the table; shaking both men from their staring match.

They looked to see him patiently waiting, with two sodas sitting in front of him and a waitress beside him tapping her foot impatiently. Red plastered on his fake smile, as he nodded and waved.

“We'll get back to this little chat later, boy. Right now, you're gonna sit your ass across from your boy, enjoy a club sandwich and then come back to my place while I call in some favors.”

“But Susan-”

“Will be gone all day.”

Jon stared at Red, while the old man kept smiling at Joseph, before he asked, “What are ya doin', Red?”

Red turned back to Jon; his face softened by a genuine smile.

“I'm lettin' a father have a meal with his boy; even if he don't know who he is.”

Before Jon could protest, Red had left his seat, walked over to Joseph and sat down next to him. He looked back to Jon and patted the empty space on the table across from them. Every fiber of his being screamed at him to just walk out the door, as he left the counter for their table. As he sat across from them, he tried to give a convincing – not nervous at all – smile.

Joseph surprised him, by giving him a wide-toothy grin, as he said, “Hello, I'm Joey.”

“Uh, h-hey,” Jon managed. “I, uh. I'm... My name is...”

“This is just painful,” stated Red, as he patted Joseph on the shoulder. “The chatterbox here is Mac. He's a friend of Grandpa's.”

“How ya doin', Mac?” asked Joseph, as he stuck out his hand.

Jon held his smile, as he took his son's hand and glared at Red; who knew he hated being called Mac.

“How ya doin', lad?”

“You talk funny.”

With Red's breaking laughter, the three of them started chatting; Jon listening intently to Joseph talk about school, friends and even a girl he kinda liked, but not like-liked. It wasn't the same as being there when it happened, but he accepted it gladly.

LATER THAT DAY

Jon and Red, with Joseph trotting just ahead of them, took their time getting back to the apartment building. Before leaving the diner, Red had assured him many times that Susan would not be back til later on; that she would be with some friends after looking for a job.

Jon was still leery, but the prospect of spending more time with his son – even as Mac – was too much to pass up on.

“I got a friend at the Bureau,” said Red. “She's got a friend at the CIA who has a friend at the NSA, etc, etc. I'm sure we can find you something to go on, but, uh...”

“But what?”

“You sure we shouldn't take this to someone else?”

“What? After all the hell ya've given me since this mornin'? Why ya changin' your mind now?”

“I been thinking and it's like you said: If this isn't a turf war, then maybe you're... you know... outta your league?”

Jon's face contorted with muted shock, before he stated in a hushed whisper, “So damn sorry ta've disappointed ya'. I only took out several armed thugs, a super criminal and nearly destroyed my arm, because ya practically begged me to.”

“That was before. This is now. I don't know if you're up for this, son.”

“Don't have much choice now,” said Jon, as he shook his head. “I'm on their radar now. Even if they dunno who I am, they're lookin' for me. The quicker I get answers, the quicker all this goes away n' I can get back ta' sittin' in my apartment and smokin' myself ta' death.”

Hmph! Still ain't quit, huh?”

“One crusade at a time, old man.”

The two of them reached the building steps – just after Joseph – when someone called out, “Fredrick Book?!”

Red looked to see a good looking Brunette and a scrawny twenty-something with a camera. He was puzzled for a moment, until it clicked!

“Aww, hell. It's you again; Betty Ross or something.”

“Brant,” she corrected him. “Betty Brant for the Daily Bugle. This here is my colleague, Peter Parker.”

Peter waved, as he said, “Sorry to bother you and your family but... well, we're nosy; you know how that goes.”

Joseph laughed, as he pointed at Jon and said, “This is Grandpa's friend, silly.”

Betty nodded sheepishly, as she looked to Jon to apologize. It was then her eyes widened with recognition, as she snapped her fingers at Peter, while she stammered, “Pete, Pete, Pete.”

Peter looked at her, quizzically. “Uh, am I supposed to rollover for a treat or something?”

Jon grabbed Red by the shoulder and said, “This ain't good. Get rid of 'em.”

“What you think I'm gonna do; invite them in for tea?”

“You have scones?” asked Peter.

“We have cookies,” answered Joseph.

“Sweet.”

Betty smacked Peter in the chest, before she pointed at Jon and said, “That's the guy from the videotape; the one who shot-”

“Shut it!” Jon barked, as he made his way between them and his son. “I'll not have ya talkin' 'bout such things, in front of the boy.”

“Take it easy pal,” said Peter, as he placed himself in front of Betty. “There's no need to start anything. We're just looking for answers; reporters, remember?”

Red leaned into Joseph and placed an assured hand on his shoulder. “I think it's time for you to go upstairs and watch some cartoons.”

“Adult talk?” asked Joseph, in a heavy sigh.

Red didn't need to answer, as he patted his grandson on the head and waited for him to go into the building, before he turned his attention to the busybodies.

“What the hell do you want, lady?!”

“We were looking for him,” answered Betty, as she continued to point at Jon. “We found a video of him at a Butchers' hangout and thought you could help us find him and bam!, here he is... why is he here?”

“Why the hell are ya lookin' for me?,” asked Jon. “For all ya know, I'm another whack job who likes shootin' folks and here ya come a callin'? Don't have much of a survival instinct, do ya?”

“If you only knew,” Peter said aloud; earning him another smack to the chest.



AT THAT MOMENT



Frank kept watch, as the four of them bickered back and forth. The ear-bud hissed with too many voices trying to talk at once; loudly at that. As he continued his surveillance, he took stock of the two new comers.

The old black man – Red – was the retired FBI agent the reporter was talking about. The man in the hoodie – with the Scottish accent – seemed like the one to keep an eye on. His demeanor wasn't too dissimilar from those he'd worked with in the past; Higgins, Cole and Dyson. Frank could tell a man carrying his fair share of demons.

Will you just shut the hell up!” the old man's voice came in.

“About time.”

I can't be having you making all this racket. In case you forgot, my sorry ass has to live here and I don't need the whole neighborhood wondering “what's up with that old man?”. Now you – reporter – get to it.

Frank listened to them go on about Brant's theory of a mastermind and then what the Scottish man had been up to with the Butchers. He found it hard to believe the man could have beaten Tombstone, but he'd seen stranger.

He reached into his glove box and grabbed a worn notepad wrapped with a rubber band. As he continued listening to their conversation, he grabbed a pencil from the center console and began writing. The subject line: The Scot. As they pieced their stories together, he scribbled the Scottish man's description. When he finished, there was an empty section: Friend or Foe.

“Guess we'll figure that out soon enough.”



ELSEWHERE



Dr. Carolyn Trainer sat at her desk, in a cluttered laboratory – surrounded by machinery of varies kinds. The bags under her eyes told of endless days of working late nights into the wee hours of the morning.

Her fingers moved like lightning, as her eyes were glued to the monitor in front of her. Though she detested Manfredi, he was right – the sooner this whole thing was done, the sooner she could prove herself to the only man her heart desired; Dr. Otto Octavius.

The outline of a male figure appeared on the screen, with SYSTEMS 98% OPERATIONAL. TIME REMAINING: 2:32:21. “Soon, Otto,” said Carolyn, with a far-stretched grin. “Soon, you will see me for who I am.”

An equal worthy of you love.”

#7 Posted by Jackson_Hartley (161 posts) - - Show Bio

@thespideyguy: Thanks. It takes me a while to post sometimes, between trying to write everything else, but there'll be more down the pike.

#8 Edited by Jackson_Hartley (161 posts) - - Show Bio

ALL MARVEL CHARACTERS AND SETTINGS ARE THE PROPERTY OF MARVEL INC. AND THEIR RESPECTIVE AFFILIATES. I DO NOT OWN ANY RIGHTS TO ANY MARVEL INC. OWNED CHARACTERS

Previously: City on Fire, Part 5: A Crack In the Stone

CITY ON FIRE

Part 6

Bad Memories

Jon stumbled through the alleys, as he made his way home. The blood seeping from his arm had slowed, but still threatened to overtake him. It smeared along the filthy brick walls, when he would lose his balance.

Jon came to the end of another alley. Beyond it was a busy street with passersby cluttering the sidewalks. Dammit. Gonna bleed out, if I wait here any longer.

After a moment of thinking, Jon looked back down the alley at the street he'd just passed. There had been a payphone on a practically deserted corner. He couldn't call Red; he couldn't take the chance of involving his family in this mess. However, there was one person who would possibly help him.

Backtracking to the empty street, he slunk to the payphone and , without paying, dialed an old number and prayed he'd remembered it correctly. He held his breath in anticipation, before he heard the ringing on the other end.

“Castillo Pet Shampoo,” a woman answered. “How may we assist you?”

“My dog is filthy. Really filthy,” Jon replied. “I sat him in the alley next to the payphone on the corner of West thirty-ninth and Seventh Avenue; he's that filthy.”

“The name and filthiest area of the dog?”

“Jon and it's his right leg. Ya' may wanna' hurry; I think it's covered with ticks.”

“Not to worry sir. Our van will be there shortly.”

Once the woman hung up, Jon returned to the ally and found a collection of garbage cans to sit behind. As he waited, his eyelids grew heavy and his breathing became labored. Everything began to darken, as he fought to stay awake.

Darkness enveloped him and the world faded, just as he heard the sound of tires screeching to a halt.

10 Years ago

Jon sat against a light post, as he lit up a cigarette and waited. He wore a pair of mirrored sunglasses and a long black coat; buttoned all the way to his neck. Across the street, he watched a church where a wedding had just ended. The bride and groom were all smiles, as they were pelted with rice by their mob of family and friends.

Jon cracked a smile, as he remembered his own wedding. Neither he or Susan knew many people, so they had a small wedding with a handful of their closest friends; friends who thought it would be funny to throw cereal instead of rice.

“What're you smilin' at,” a man's voice shook him from his thoughts.

Next to him stood Lonnie; dressed head to toe in a leather one-piece with a high-collar and a belt.

“Ya look like a damn fool,” said Jon, as he tossed his cigarette into the street. “And yer late.”

“Don't be jealous of the duds, Jonny-boy,” said Lonnie, as he too eyed the wedding. “And it looks like I'm just in time. You see him yet?”

“Not yet,” Jon answered. “Prolly still inside; waitin' for everythin' to die down to leave without too much fuss.”

“That just makes it all the easier. What do ya say we go send the bastard to his maker?”

“We should wait til he exits,” said Jon. “More open to deadpan him.”

“Don't gimme that BS. You just don't wanna bloody up a church. Christ, man up.”

“Ya watch yer mouth,” said Jon. “Use the Lord's name in vain again, n' I'll brain ya.”

“Whatever Jonny-boy,” said Tombstone, as he cracked his knuckles. “Let's get this job over with; I got a spider that needs crushing.”

“Ya still on that kick?” Jon asked, as he and Tombstone walked toward the church. “Yer as bad as a dog with a bone.”

“Just wait, jackass,” Tombstone retorted. “I'll be a freaking hero, once I crush that punk's head in. Hell, maybe I'll get so huge, Manfredi will be kissing my ass for once.”

“Keep on dreamin' Lonnie. Fellas like us are grunts in all this mess; we do what needs done, when we're told to do it.”

“Feel free to live your life as Manfredi's dancing monkey,” said Tombstone, as they came to stand before the church's doors. “Sometime down the line, I'll be the old man's empire.”

With a smirk on his face, Jon just shook his head, as he unbuttoned the middle of his coat and withdrew one of his specially made handguns. Before they entered, he bowed his head and signed the cross over his chest, as Tombstone sneered at him.

“I wish ya luck Lonnie,” said Jon, as he pushed the doors open. “Then I can take it as a sign to retire n' get the hell outta this city before the apocalypse comes.”

Now

A gunshot echoed in Jon's mind, as he shot up from a hospital bed. Everything was blurry for a moment, until his eyes focused and the world became clear. He was inside what looked to be a makeshift recovery room, with a tube up his nose, an IV in his left arm, some electrodes pasted to his chest and his right arm entirely bandaged.

A blond woman was standing with her back to him, as she read over a chart. When she turned to find him awake, she eyed him with a blank expression.

Dr. Castillo,” she greeted him, as she walked around to his heart monitor. “You're lucky we found you in time; any longer and you'd be buried in a shallow grave in Jersey.”

“Ya have my thanks,” said Jon, as he looked at his arm. “How bad is it?”

“Hard to say. I've dealt with a mutant before with kinetic based powers, but yours is slightly different. Has this ever happened before?”

Jon paused for a moment. “Aye, once before. It was nothing like this.”

“You mutants tend to have an inherent healing ability that allows you to heal quicker than the normal human; sometimes a helluva lot quicker. How long did it take last time?”

Jon scratched his chin in thought, as he answered, “I dunno. Couple days maybe.”

“Given the severity and number of lacerations, you're looking at a few weeks.”

“Weeks? Ya can't be serious.”

She shot him a bemused look, as she said, “This is my serious face. Can't you tell?”

“But I got things ta' do.”

“Then you'll have to do them after a few weeks,” she said, as she grabbed a pill bottle from her lab coat. “Once the pain meds wear off, your life is really gonna suck. Take two of these, twice a day, and you should be able to manage until everything's healed up. If it gets to bad, just call us and I'll send someone out to check up on you.”

Jon fell back onto the bed, with a heavy sigh. This was not the time to be laid up; he'd stumbled onto something bigger than a turf war and Tombstone was proof of that. Lonnie would never work for a two-bit gang like the Butchers.

While deep in thought, Jon didn't notice Dr. Castillo inject something into his IV port, until she was finished.

“What was that?” asked Jon.

“Just something to help you sleep, while I take care of a few things,” she answered, as she collected some more charts. “If you're lucky, we won't meet again. If not, I'll see you later, Mr. MacDagget.”

“Wait a minute,” said Jon, as he felt his body relax. “How-how did ya know my na-... my name?”

He received no answer, as darkness took him again.

10 years ago

Jon was on his knees, at the foot of the church steps, as he hovered over the body of a dead nun; blood flowing onto the sidewalk from a bullet wound in her forehead. The gun in his hand shook, as his whole body trembled. His eyes were wide and his breath continually left him.

“What the hell's wrong with you?” asked Tombstone, as he casually exited the church, while wiping blood from his alabaster hands. “Job's done, lets go.”

Jon gritted his teeth, as he dropped the gun and clenched his fist. As he stood, he turned on his heel and planted a punch across Tombstone's face; knocking onto the church steps. Jon didn't notice the split skin across his knuckles, as he scooped up his gun and aimed it at his partner.

“Ya son-of-a-bitch!” screamed Jon.

“What the hell, Jon?” asked Tombstone, as he rubbed his cheek. “You lost your mind or something?”

“All ya had to do was wait! She'd be alive, if ya'd have waited!!”

“What? The nun? Jeez Jonny-boy; it's just son broad in a habit.”

Jon leaped atop Tombstone, as he pressed the barrel against his left eye. “She was innocent! She was innocent and now she's dead! She's fu—ing dead, because of you!!!”

Tombstone just smiled, as he stared at him with his uncovered eye. “Last time I check, you're the one who's holdin' the gun.”

Jon was taken aback, as his grip on the gun wavered. Tombstone took the advantage and knocked it away, before he grabbed him by the throat and lifted him off the ground, as he stood. With little effort, he raised Jon higher and slammed into into the sidewalk; next to the nun.

Jon stared at the sky above, while dazed; more from the realization tombstone was right. It was his fault. He'd fired at her without looking and it was his fault she laid there; dead by his own hands.

Tombstone knelt beside him, as he flashed his shark-like smile. “This isn't a movie, Jon. We're not good guys. We kill people; it's what we do.”

He reached down and grabbed the collar of Jon's coat.

“You're no saint, Jonny-boy,” said Tombstone, as he ripped Jon's coat; revealing a priest's collar. He plucked it from Jon's shirt and held it inches from Jon's face.

“This isn't real,” stated Tombstone. “It's part of the shtick Manfredi gave you; just like every other mook on his payroll.”

Jon shook his head, as he stated, “It doesn't matter. She was innocent and now she's dead because of... because of me.”

“So? She won't be the last.”

“Yes she is,” said Jon. “No more; I'm done.”

Tombstone snickered, as he stood. “Tell yourself that all you want. Doesn't change the fact we're killers; it's in our nature.”

“To hell with ya, Lonnie,” Jon said, as he rolled onto his side – opposite the nun – and got to his feet. “No more. I'm done killing for Silvio. I'm done with him... and I'm done with the likes of you.”

Tombstone opened his mouth to counter, but Jon just turned and walked away.

“Where you gonna go, Jonny?” Tombstone called to him. “Huh? It's not like you can just leave whenever ya like.”

Sirens howled in the distance, as Jon continued walking away.

“Jonny!” Tombstone yelled. “Jonny, get back here! Jonny! Jonny?! Jon!! Jon!!! CLERIC!!!!”

Now

Jon awoke in his apartment; Tombstone's voice still ringing in his ears. He looked all around him to find nothing disturbed or missing. The pill bottle Dr. Castillo had given him laid atop his bedside table, with a note leaned against it.

It read: “Guns are under the bed. Do not use your powers!!!”

Jon rolled out of bed and winced at the sharp pain that jolted up his arm; which he then realized was in a sling. He grabbed the bottle and walked into the kitchen for a glass of water. As he downed his pills, his eyes fell on the garment bag hanging in the closet.

Cleric... he remembered the name well; after all, it was the name Manfredi gave him, when he began killing for him. It was like an unwritten rule that once you showed any signs of being special, you had to have some kind of tacky name; like the vigilantes and super criminals. Since Jon once had the habit of quoting verses from the bible, he was given the monicker of Cleric; something Manfredi found as a fitting irony for his enemies, before they died.

Long before that fateful night on the church steps, Jon had been a devote Catholic; even while killing under the orders of Silvio Manfredi. He'd justified it by telling himself all those he killed had it coming; that while he had blood on his hands and worked for a criminal, it was a means to an end. He was able to provide for his family and punish the wicked; being a hit man was just a lesser evil he would endure.

All that was gone, after that night. Jon left Susan and Joseph that very night; leaving them a note confessing to running away with a woman who he loved more. Though it was for their safety, he did it more out of shame.

Jon walked to his closet and unzipped the garment bag. Inside was his long black coat – still torn at the neck – with the rest of his Cleric attire underneath it; only the collar was missing. He felt sick to his stomach, as he gazed upon it.

He slammed the closet door shut, as he tried to keep the memories from flooding his mind; there were other matters to attend to. Even with the doctor's good advice, he couldn't stay in bed until he was completely healed; something big was brewing somewhere in the city and something needed to be done about it.

He knelt beside the bed and reached under the bed, as he said, “Once more inta' the breach, I guess.”

He grabbed his guns and some spare clips from the case, before he took a shower and changed into some fresh clothes. He poured some of his pain pills into a baggy and slipped them into his pocket; just in case.

Elsewhere

In an alley across town, a man with slick jet-black hair sat in a van, as he read the Daily Bugle. He jostled a toothpick between his teeth, as he took a yellow marker and underlined several paragraphs within the article about the recent gang shootings.

Suddenly, a young man was beside the driver side door, holding a gun through the open window; pressed against the man's head.

“Get the f**k out and gimme your wallet,” he barked, as he pressed the barrel harder.

The man sighed, as he opened the door and stepped out. He was adorned in a black leather coat – buttoned over his chest – and jeans. He held his hands loose in the air.

“Come on man, gimme the wallet.”

“It's inside my coat,” said the man.

The overzealous young man reached out with his free hand and pulled the coat open. He froze, when he discovered a white skull on the man's worn black shirt. He looked at the man, with a quivering lip, as he tried to speak.

In an instant, the man knocked the carjacker's gun out of his hands and grabbed him by the throat. Just as quickly, he yanked him forward and slammed his head against the van door. Without stopping, he grabbed the back of his head and continually smashed his face into the door.

The man finally pulled the carjacker away from the van and smiled at him. He withdrew his toothpick and gently slid it up the jacker's nose, before giving him a wink and slamming him into the door one more time.

As the carjacker's body fell to the ground, the man got back into the van and continued reading the paper. As he highlighted more paragraphs, he reached into the center console and grabbed another toothpick. He spotted the name Betty Brant in the byline and marked it.

“Lets get started,” he said aloud, as he pulled out of the alley. “Welcome home Frank.”

Next Time: City On Fire, Part 7: Just Another Day In The Neighborhood.

#9 Posted by Jackson_Hartley (161 posts) - - Show Bio

@batkevin74: Thanks. Don't know why spell check didn't catch that.

#10 Posted by Jackson_Hartley (161 posts) - - Show Bio

@feebadger said:

@batkevin74: What i understood it to be, was that 'Peyton' was inside the form? The physicality was nothing but a suit and the 'demon' or 'the devil' was the black, viscous substance that Peyton spewed out? At least, that's what i took from it (having said that, i have been drinking a looooooot of cough syrup ;P)

That is the basic jist of it, but it will be explained in the next one or two parts, exactly what/why that is. Sorry about the confusion BK. I guess I coulda emphasized they were in a train yard more, but it's one of those writer mistakes, "I see it in my head well enough, everyone else will get it."