(Typing this up on my IPad so please forgive me.)
THE GHOUL IN:
It's the end of the world.
Yet somehow, New York City doesn't seem to notice. It's buildings stand tall and ready for the coming crisis, looking like gravestones against the backdrop of lightning and rain, the lit windows easily passable for inscriptions and letters commemorating the dead, final signatures for lives that have hopefully been well spent. Yet it's the people, the people that don't seem to understand that we're all at war now, leaving your home lit up like it's the Fourth of July is basically a sign to any Nazi bomber inviting them to a birthday party where the entrance fee is a fourty megaton bomb.
America and its allies are at war, and the only people that seem to notice are the ones looking to make a profit off it.
"It's the end of the world."
Police Constable Murphy seems to echo my thoughts, poking his head through his apartment window like he's a Frenchman waiting for the Guillotine. As he looks up at me, standing on his rooftop, solitary like a statue, I catch the look in his eyes, one of concern, a look I saw too often a few months back when the cops were still trying to put a bullet in my skull.
"Evening, Ghoul." Murphy says, stepping out onto the fire escape where I'm waiting, impatiently tapping my foot in all the rain.
"What've you got for me, Officer?" I reply, voice naturally turning deep and dramatic to hide the greasy SoHo accent I've been told greatly disrupts whatever illusion I'm trying to create for myself.
Murphy reaches into his jacket and pulls out a list of crimes and offences that have occurred while I was sleeping during the day. As the officer's jacket moves, I catch a glimpse of the revolver he's keeping holstered just in case he needs it. Any doubts I've had about this little alliance are immediately verified, the police force still don't trust me, the exact moment this war ends, I guarantee the only thanks I'll get is either a bullet to the brain or a pair of handcuffs on the wrists. Sure, we're all smiling for the cameras now, but the twisted wire that is Loyalty, tends to snap fairly quickly.
"Couplea murders." Murphy mutters, looking down at his feet as I take the list from his hands and look it over, words and letters getting smudged in the rain, making it all the harder to read when accompanied by the low levels of light in the air. "Some burglaries." Lightning shoots by overhead, illuminating the page and bringing forward such keywords as 'rape, and 'assault' to the forefront. "Just pick the cases you want and I'll call it in."
I say nothing, eyes working fast to pick up any of the information provided and prioritise the chapters of human cruelty laid before me. At one point, I catch sight of the crime 'vigilantism' and almost burst out laughing at the hypocrisy, only to stop quickly upon viewing the word below it.
"Kidnapping." It escapes my mouth immediately, and the startled look on Murphy's face shows he didn't expect me to make my choice so quickly. Everything else on the list can wait for a short while. This needs my attention.
"Yeah. The Crime Cult." Murphy' four words explain all, and I understand the severity of the situation. This sort of thing wouldn't have been allowed just a few short months ago, but today it's all the range. "Kidnapped a newborn from that family that runs that Butchers over in SoHo."
"The Tuckers." I say, connecting the morning's closure of the shop to the kidnapping. "Give me the address." Folding the list up and sliding it into my coat's pocket for later, I'm careful not to show how familiar I am with the family, just in case Murphy starts getting ideas. Adjusting the hat upon my head in a more protective manner, I see the frustration in the Constable's face as he notes the street number down for me. The grinding of his teeth says it all, trusting someone like me with police business is humiliating, the equivalent of a shop clerk asking for a supervisor, when they should be handling the process themself. This is breaking every code and alliance the man has.
"Here." Something seems to dawn on the man's face as I take the little slip he's holding. While pretending to look over the details of the address, I notice that he looks away from me and to the City he must see every single day, yet is now truly seeing for the first time.
"God." He whines like a hungry dog, desperate for treats. "What's happened to this place? Nothing like this ever used to happen."
Moving over to the fire escape ladder, I give him a reply, having to yell to be heard over the rain.
"All the good people went to war."
I'm not wrong, those soldiers, pilots and medics saw what was happening overseas and didn't hesitate to enlist. They saw Injustice, and made a choice for the good of all, while now, only the scum and trash are left to continue civilisation.
"What about us?" Murphy asks, watching as I begin to make my leave, descending quickly down the escape in hopes of getting out of the rain.
"Exactly." Is the only thing I can think to reply.
The rain has gotten worse by the time I make it back down to the streets, and by then my clothes are drenched and filthy and I'm back where I belong. The white of my outfit has turned a murky grey, and a slight shiver trickling down my spine is more than likely to turn into a full blown cold by the end of the night. Holding my hand out towards the streets and ignoring the pleas of a group of prostitues huddled under a building, I give a smart salute in the hopes of getting the attention of what I'm seeking.
Inside the little yellow cab, I pull out a cigarette and let the sweet nicotine fix calm my nerves, finally able to relax as the lights and noise of the City pass me by from behind a tiny sheet of glass. "Right now." I think, trying to collect my thoughts in this quiet moment. "The greatest heroes on the planet are off fighting Hitler and his hordes, saving millions while I'm busy toiling in the trash where I belong."
The Taxi stinks, probably reeling from a dozen other weary travellers that have passed through during the day. I'd be sick if I hadn't grown used to the smell.
"You ain't that Ghoul fella, are ya?" The driver, a fat man in his 50s, asks, smelling of cheap booze and women which only adds to the fragrance of the vehicle. "My kids won't shut up about ya."
A name I didn't choose, yet have earned in most ways. Like a ghoul, an eternal spectre, I am completely alone, floating endlessly through empty winds and hoping for some sort of purpose, yet finding none. The white colouring of my outfit, and the goggles over my eyes help add to the mystique, while also putting the fear of God in all the Pimps and Junkies who deserve it.
"Not anymore." I sigh, reminiscing before leaning back in the sticky, leather seat and reflecting on times that have gone forever. Screeching brakes tell me when we've arrived at the Victim's house, opening the car door and being greeted by a downpour, I toss the driver a 20.
"Keep the change." I say. "For some perfume."
Behind me, the driver gives off a number of curses as he drives off, while before me stands a gravestone not dissimilar to the skyscrapers in Manhattan, yet smaller, and with less people hiding within. A police car sits next to me on the sidewalk, hinting at who I can expect to find inside, and a few passersby simply ignore me as they walk by, not intrigued by the strange spectre standing before them. I have one last smoke and toss my cigarette to the ground, stepping on it as I walk towards the building, unsure how the police will react to my appearance. Part of me hopes they make a move, the other part tells its brother to shut up.
"Ghoul." The door opens up, and I see the face of desperation. Jack Tucker, who must have been staring out the window, opens the entrance to his home and beckons me inside with his hands. "Come in please."
It's a quick walk up to the Tucker's flat, almost as quick as the construction that went into the place, judging by how the stairs creak and moan when I put so much as a toe on them. Jack says nothing as he walks, which says all, it's a stark contrast to the chatty butcher that still sells me my sandwiches in the morning.
"She's here." He says, opening a mostly detached, wooden door that looks like someone kicked it down recently. Moving past the entrance, noticing signs of a scuffle along the way, I see the second victim in a trio, Bev Tucker, being consoled by a pair of policemen. They don't stop the crying, but they do give me a foul look as I step inside.
"Gentlemen." Mrs Tucker joins the officers in staring at me as I speak, but while their eyes are filled with anger, her eyes are filled with something resembling hope.
"I'll have the room."
A couple of insults are hurled my way as they leave, but it honestly doesn't matter. By this point I'm used to it. The Tucker couple, wronged so horribly by this world, offer me a seat in hopes I'll save their child.
Knowing my luck, little baby Josh is already dead.
It takes a few minutes for me to sit down, the Tuckers are polite enough to offer me a beer from their fridge, and with it having been a fair few hours since my last meal, I happily accept. Popping the cap off, and feeling the cool liquid wash down my throat, I immediately make a promise that I will not fail these people.
"So what can you tell me?" I finally ask, sat in the centre of the room, looking into the desperate eyes of those who've lost everything, and offering nothing but questions, I realise something. These people don't deserve me, with the kindness they've shown, regardless of circumstances, they should have someone who actually knows what they're doing, someone better. If Icarus or Domino were here, they'd know exactly what to say, able to keep things calm and civil with a perfect wink and a friendly smile, yet, sadly, it's the end of the world, and all these people have is me.
"It was those monsters in the paper." John begins to say, shaking as he speaks, with his lips moving so quickly that spittle starts flying across the room. "It was those cultists that tried to blow up, Liberty!"
Liberty. Two weeks ago, during New Year celebrations, the Crime Cult tried to blow up the Statue of Liberty in the name of the madman across the seas. The police managed to get there in time, thankfully, but the thing still managed to make the headlines, even without a Cape involved. This is all stuff I already knew, but still, it's good to know that everyone, the Tuckers, cops and me included, are all on the same page.
"The Crime Cult. Yeah, I know." My hand inches towards my pocket and pulls out a cigarette, a mind of its own clearly resting beneath the palm. "Did they say anything?" I ask, fumbling for the lighter I always keep hidden in my sleeve. "Anything they mention that'll help me find them faster?"
A soft cough fills the air, catching me off guard as Mrs Tucker wipes her eyes and looks up for the first time since we'd all sat down for this little interrogation.
"When..." She begins to say, voice hoarse and aching as she struggles with the words. "When they came and took Joshua..." I pull my mask up slightly and pop the cigarette in my mouth, bringing the lighter up to the edge, ready for the sweet taste of nicotine.
"They said my baby was the Antichrist."
It takes a couple seconds for the words to sink in. Rather than speak, I seem to choose to sit still, looking dumb and stupid as the Tuckers wait for an answer.
I answer by lighting my cigarette, and as I breathe out smoke, I realise that this world is truly and completely doomed.