Most Wanted: Origins
Issue 1 of 4
The C.B.D., Hong Kong
A marksman's scope filled with red. The colours burst, vivid, vibrant and sudden like candy from a piñata. The air rippled around the hollow-tip slug as it passed silently and cleanly through it's target's skull. The man's face folded in on itself as it's contents vomited onto the wall behind.
'Bullseye' the shooter whispered into the wind that whipped past his face. It was still breezy on the roof of the midnight express, 12 blocks away.
8 Years Ago
Suburbia, New Jersey
A boy no older than 14 sidled past a mirror before the front door to his family's home. He caught his reflection as his hand reached for the doorknob. His face fell as he took in his own appearance. Scrawny for his age and hunching, he is made to wear a halo for his posture. He looked up with a frown at the sound of his mother's 4 inch heels clinking down the stairs. “How long do I have to wear this for again?” he asked his mother. He knew the answer already, the words could have been imprinted on his eyelids for all the times he had heard them. “Until you stand up straight like a man” his mother said, smiling weakly down at him. “You know your dad wants you to grow up strong, Hayden” she said, her smile didn't extend to her eyes which were lined and careworn. “He wants you to take over the family business when you're older.” she finished, her voice cracking slightly hollow.
Hayden picked up his schoolbag as a rickety motor outside heralded the presence of his school bus. “I don't see why I need to be big and strong to work at a paper factory Mom.” he replied, turning the doorknob to a cold December's morning. His mother touched his shoulder to forestall him. He turned to her and she made to kiss his forehead in farewell. However, she found her way blocked by the steel of his spinal support and compromised by kissing his cheek instead. “You be good for Mommy ok?” she said, smiling as her son left for school. The boys on the bus were to be expected, Hayden thought. Teasing him and bouncing spitballs off the back of his head, trying to get them to stick to his halo. Even the bus driver chuckled every morning when the door folded itself open in front of him. It's not like he didn't know how stupid he looked. It wasn't something he could forget about, it had always been this way for him.
He didn't know any better. Because it wasn't just his spinal troubles that made him stand out from the other kids, he was almost clinically uncoordinated. He was last in every race. He was the reason his gym teacher lost his voice yelling every Monday. He was the guy sitting on the bench with the girls, with whom he was abjectly unpopular, at every basketball game. It wasn't like he felt sorry for himself, he flat-out didn't know it could be any different for someone like him. His mother had brought him up to fear any physical activity or interaction. “Hayden Alexander, should have been called Amanda!” yelled a rather round and beefy boy who had spotted Hayden on the bench after a game. “Get it, because you were born a girl but your Mom's too fucking stupid to realise it!” he explained as he strolled over with his friends laughing over his shoulder. Hayden strained to raise his eye to the level of the boy with the halo constricting his neck movement. The boy came to stand over him with half a dozen boys behind him. “Nice one, Declyn” breathed Hayden in a lifeless sigh.
Declyn the bully sneered. “Maybe by the time we graduate you'll have figured it out. Reckon you'll go to the prom with one of my boys?” he asked, pointing behind him and shining his buck-teeth in a mocking grin. “I think we could show you your real place in the world Hay, think you'd like that huh?” Declyn's spit flecked Hayden's face as he laughed. “I think you're a faggot, maybe you want to come back behind the sheds and suck my- *oouf*” Declyn's pronouncements had been cut-off. This was quite usual for him at home with his own abusive and alcoholic father. However, this was the first time it had come from someone his age. Someone who had been pushed by him enough to start pushing back. Only this person was rather ill-practised in such a raw art form. Hayden threw a punch with all his might, but it wasn't enough. Sitting down his straight aim barely caught the bully's midsection. He wasn't strong enough to wind a kid his own size and Declyn was certainly much bigger than that. His moment of aggression would cost him dearly. Declyn grabbed him by is halo, clobbering him with a fist bigger than Hayden's face. The little consciousness he retained was soon robbed of him as he was summarily thrown to the ground, kicked and stomped by half a dozen boys twice his size.
He opened his eyes groggily in what looked like a surgically clean, tiled room. “Is it after school already Ms. Watkins?” Hayden said, addressing his school nurse. Evidently this wasn't the first time he had been bullied. “Yes, it is Hayden.” answered not a nurse, but his mother. Hayden opened his eyes more fully and sat up, his ribs and head throbbing. His mother sat by his side in what appeared to be a private clinic. A twist of metal and debris sat on a desk to her side. "What happened to my halo?” Hayden enquired, hardly concealing the happiness that etched his black and blue face. “It was kicked in, along with most of your teeth” his mother answered sharply. “What have I told you about fights Hayden?” she asked, but continued before waiting for an answer. “Violence never solves anything! You can't grow up to try to deal with your problems that way.” Hayden knew it was no use arguing or telling her he hadn't started it. His usually caring mother was always very strict regarding any physical confrontation. It may have been for this reason that he had such difficulty asserting himself with bullies like Declyn.
He rose halfway in his bed. Catching himself in a mirror he noticed he had a severely bruised left eye and his lip was busted at both ends. His mother made him feel as if he should feel remorseful. It was hard though, when he knew it'd be weeks before his parents could get another orthodontist appointment. Weeks before he had to walk around with a halo, even if he had to walk around beaten and bruised. A shadow set over the doorway to the room. Hayden's father stood there, his face lined with concern or calculation. “How are you, malysh?" (little one) his father said in his customary Russian accent. He came over to inspect his son, his face cracking in the same defiant happiness as Hayden's had moments earlier. His mother spotted his look and narrowed her eyes warningly to her husband. “He's been fighting at school!” she yelled. His father was taken aback by the sheer volume of her voice. “They probably deserved it, didn't they malysh?” he said, turning to Hayden. Hayden gave a weak smile back. “See, a man shouldn't be afraid to start up for himself.” he said in a quiet voice, hoping his wife wouldn't hear. She did, however, launching herself at her husband and beating his shoulders with her handbag. “Owch” he groaned. “What do you have in there, a brick?” he said exasperated. Hayden chuckled, his matted lips stinging as he laughed.“Let me take him to the work party tonight, Christine” his father said, rubbing the side of his head where he had been hit. “Absolutely not! Look at the state of him!” she bellowed in response. “He hasn't seen his 'uncles' in so long...” he trailed off. “He's nearly old enough... It'll be much better if they see him without that stupid metal thing around his head” he said in an undertone to his wife. She paused as her face hardened. “You better be right Nicholas” she muttered in response.
Downtown, New Jersey
They weren't really his uncles, even Hayden knew that. Though, from an early age he had always been made to call them that and had kind of stuck. They were his Father's work friends and they had gotten together for a 'work party' every Friday after work at a local dive bar. His dad never missed that weekly get together in the 20 or so years he had worked at the 'Paper Company'. Hayden thought for a moment, he didn't even know which company it was. He thought though, he could always get all the stationary he wanted and put it from his mind. They parked across the way and crossed the road.
The man ushered his son into the downstairs bar. As he did so three things happened simultaneously. A door creaked as it opened onto a stale smelling hall of pool tables and worn leather booths. A bead of sweat ran down Nicholas Alexander's forehead without any consideration for the winter chill. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the eyebrow of a man on the opposite side of the street and four floors above raised into an arc. “A little kid huh... who's the new errand boy for the Russian mob?” he enquired of a woman to his left. Her finger pressing an earpiece as she listened in on a reserved FBI line.