A beautiful young red-haired woman sat in the interview room. At 23, Felicie Milner was at the top of her career in ballet. Her face was on advertisements all over Europe and she was worth millions; she was known for her beauty and graceful technique.
The cameras were rolling.
“So Felicie,” the interviewer said. “You’re obviously quite talented. But do you think you can learn all of the Black Swan’s dance moves in time for opening night?”
Felicie was a bit annoyed at the question. The interviewer was acting like her talent was second rate.
“I admit it will take a lot of hard work,” she replied diplomatically. “Swan Lake is a very technical play, it has always been praised for its technical aspects. I will have to work very hard to play the Swan correctly. But I am confident I can do it.”
The interviewer nodded. “How do you feel about Camille LeHaut’s disappearance?”
Felicie resisted the urge to smile. Her death was the sweetest thing that’s ever happened.
“I think it’s a great tragedy,” she said, trying her best to look a bit distressed. “She was a great dancer, one of the best. I do hope nothing’s happened to her and that she will be found in time… even though she’s been gone for almost two whole months now.”
The tiniest flicker of a smile crossed her face but she was quick to cover it up.
“Camille and I were very close,” she added. “We’ve known each other since we were children in France. I’m sure that in good time she will be found. In the meantime though, we have to do what’s best for the performance.”
The interviewer seemed a bit confused. “What’s… what’s best for the performance?”
“I only meant that the role of the Swan has to be filled,” Felicie replied hurriedly. “I do so reluctantly.”
Inside an extremely run down Parisian motel room, Frank Castle, aka the Punisher, played a recording of the interview over and over, carefully analyzing everything.
After playing it over and over, it seemed clear to him that Felicie wasn’t sorry at all that Camille was gone. But maybe he was over-analyzing it… maybe this was a standard response in the rivalry-filled world of ballet; everyone secretly wished everyone else was gone.
Camille had been gone for two months but the French police had not yet ruled it a murder, they were slow to act. Since ransom demands had not been made, Castle felt that an abduction was unlikely. This was a murder; the body would turn up later… but what evidence would be left by then?
In terms of motives, her dance rival Felicie Milner had the most to gain. Felicie and Camille had been dance rivals since teenagers, before her disappearance, Camille was cast for the most important role in the upcoming Swan Lake production. After Camille was gone, Felicie was instantly picked.
Castle had looked into Felicie’s file but found nothing suspicious, no criminal record, no past incidents, nothing. It seemed a bit far-fetched to Castle that the young woman, who already had such a successful career, would resort to murder just to get the main part in a dance piece. He had heard about the prestige of Swan Lake and the director in charge but this seemed a bit of a stretch. Yet her behavior in some of these recent interviews was a bit suspicious to his trained eyes…
It was time to pay a visit and find out more.
It was a bright and sunny day.
Felicie’s mansion was one of the largest in France; high-end ballet paid well, but modelling for advertisements was even more lucrative.
The large beautiful white house had a vast courtyard outside. There was a beautiful water fountain with statues of angels in the middle; a myriad of carefully selected bright flowers populated the garden’s green decors.
A large fence surrounded the property. Since dancers occasionally got kidnapped, Felicie had hired two security guards to patrol her grounds.
Even though the fences were quite high, Castle climbed over them with relative ease and entered the courtyard. Dressed completely in black, the Punisher prowled through the courtyard, silent as a ninja.
First I have to get rid of the guards, he thought. But no killing, they’re innocent.
When the guards were separated, Castle made his move. He walked up behind one of them and smacked the back of the guard’s head with his handgun. The guard was instantly knocked out, falling down to the floor.
He dragged the unconscious guard into a patch of grass before circling around to take out the other guard. However, the second guard saw him.
“STOP!” the guard cried out, approaching Castle. The guard had a gun trained on Castle.
Castle raised both hands as he approached. The guard approached too, his firearm still raised.
“What the hell are you doing here sir?” the guard said angrily. “This is private-“
Castle interrupted him with a very firm punch straight to the face; he was so fast the guard had no time to fire. There was a loud cracking sound as the guard’s nose was broken and he was instantly knocked out; his grip slacked and his gun fell unto the ground.
“Bad day on the job then,” Castle muttered.
Felicie Milner stood in front of a large crystal mirror on the wall; she was adding the final touch to her outfit for the day, a beautiful red ruby necklace around her delicate neck.
Her red hair had been done perfectly as if for a prom; her pale face was filled with make-up. She wore an expensive sleeveless Ralph Lauren top and a short tailored skirt, she had on a pair of boots. It was very important for her that she looked just right for this big party.
Suddenly, she saw the reflection of a man in the mirror.
She turned around in shock.
The man was tall, rugged, with very thick arms and a broad frame. He had on a large black trench coat; his black shirt was centered with a white skull logo. His expression was cold and menacing.
As Felicie saw the white skull, the color drained from her face as she realized who she was dealing with. It was the Punisher. What the hell was he doing in Europe?
Felicie had heard about the brutal American vigilante and what he did to criminals. Even on this side of the Atlantic, Castle was a widely feared personage.
The red-haired woman opened her mouth but no words came out; she was shaking from head to toe.
The Punisher said nothing. Instead he raised his right hand, pointing a handgun straight at her.
At the sight of the gun, Felicie realized she was going to die.
“Wait!” she cried out desperately. “Don’t… don’t kill me! PLEASE!”
“Camille LeHaut,” Castle said coldly. “You killed her. So you can play the Black Swan.”
“Wh… What? N… No!” she cried out. “That’s… that’s not true. I… I haven’t killed anyone.”
“I know you did it Felicie,” Castle replied simply. “You’re not going to fool me, I’ve dealt with your kind before.”
Felicie said nothing. How did he get past the guards? She should have hired more.
“I know you’re guilty,” he said to her. “But because you’re a very young woman with no prior criminal record, I’ll give you a very rare chance at redemption. One I don’t regularly offer to murderers.”
“What do you want?” she said to him nervously.
“Show me where you hid her body,” he said to her. “This way, her family can give her a proper funeral and move on with their lives. Do this and I will let you live.”
Felicie was speechless. But knowing the Punisher’s reputation, she was surprised she had not been executed yet.
“This is the best deal you’re going to get,” Castle said to her coldly. “It’s either that or I kill you here and now.”
“If I show you the body,” she said. “You promise to let me live?”
Before they departed, Castle stopped by his vehicle where he picked off a large shovel, which he slung over his shoulder.
The Punisher’s gun was trained on her the whole way. Felicie led the vigilante through the woods.
Her heart was racing as she walked through the ominous forest behind the mansion. Felicie was scared for her life. She wasn’t sure that Castle was going to keep his deal but what choice did she have?
As they crossed over a fallen log by a river, the woman stepped on a small rock unexpectedly and tripped face down; she let out a brief cry.
“Get up and keep walking,” Castle said to her coldly. “GET UP.”
Choking back some tears, Felicie forced herself to get up. Her fine clothes were slightly muddied. She kept on walking, leading Castle deeper into the woods.
Finally, they reached a large clearing in the middle of the forest. She turned around to face Castle. She pointed to a large oak tree straight ahead.
“She’s there,” she said. “I buried her under that tree.”
Castle glared at her, her guilt having been confirmed. Frank Castle did not expect it to be this easy.
“Alright then,” he said to her coldly. He threw the shovel unto the ground in front of her. “Dig her up then.”
Felicie had not expected this. “Wait a minute!” she protested. “I… I don’t want to-“
“Do it,” he said to her coldly. “Dig her up.”
Seeing no choice, the dancer picked up the shovel with her delicate hands. She got down to it, digging at the ground under the tree. It was a very sunny day and soon her face was all sweaty as she continued to dig; she choked back some tears but she kept going.
After a few minutes of hard digging, a part of her rival’s corpse was revealed: it was Camille’s face. Her eyes and her mouth were wide open; her expression eerily blank.
Upon seeing this, Felicie turned away. Dropping the shovel, Felicie felt an overwhelming sense of revulsion. The woman bent over and vomited over the tree.
The Punisher showed no mercy to her.
“Keep digging Felicie,” he said to her. “Her family needs to be able to see her entire body, not just the face.”
She turned back to face Castle, she wanted to protest but thought better of it. She picked up the shovel and got back to digging. A few minutes later, Camille’s entire corpse was revealed; the process of rotting had begun, but she was still very much recognizable. There were no wounds of any kind. Hence, poison.
“This will do,” Castle said.
Felicie dropped the shovel, being thoroughly exhausted.
“So you poisoned her?”
“Y…Yes,” she said nervously.
“So why did you do it?” he asked her. Normally, Castle did not bother to ask why, but in this case he was feeling extremely incredulous. Really? Over a dance role?
“I… I deserved the role,” she said resentfully. “Ballet is my dream. I worked all of my life for it. To her its just a family responsibility. I deserved the role.”
Castle tried to process this, He felt an overwhelming wave of pure wrath wash over him. How could someone do this over a role in a play? Her dream? What about Camille’s dreams?
The world was such an ugly place. But when even the art of dancing led to corruption…
“I… I did what you asked,” Felicie said to him. “You said you’d let me live. You promised. Can I go now?”
Castle said nothing. Instead, he pointed the gun at her and fired… the bullet struck the dancer on one of her knees. The sound of the gunfire echoed across the forest.
Felicie Milner let out a deafening scream of agony. Almost at once, she fell down to the ground; having been kneecapped, copious amounts of red flowed unto the grass. She twisted and turned on the earth; writhing in agony.
The Punisher walked over to her and looked down at her. He aimed his gun at her chest.
Her eyes widened as she realised what was going to happen.
“W…wait,” she managed. “I… I don’t want to die, I-“
The Punisher opened fire on her. Several bullets pierced her upper chest, instantly ending her life. For good measure, Castle emptied the whole gun into her.
The thing having been done, Castle turned around, and walked away.
Under the giant oak tree, Felicie Milner lay next to Camille LeHaut. Two young dancers brought to very untimely ends. The authorities would find them a few days later and connect the dots.
It was time for the Punisher to return to New York City. He had expected things to be better on this side of the Atlantic, sadly, not so.