(I'm typing this on my IPad so please forgive me!)
I was never one for church.
Maybe that's why I'm damned, forever doomed to be surrounded by darkness and despair that I can't seem to escape even when surrounded by angels, especially now that all the angels are gone. During my young years, doing what boys my age did, the very idea of going to Sunday school was enough to fill me with dread. Even after years of going to the thing, I couldn't tell you any specific moments of scripture, recite verses based around good and evil, or even give you the name of Jesus' twelve disciples, except Judas, I know him well. However, if there's one thing Sunday school has kept in my brain, something that will forever stay there, it's the Antichrist, Satan's spawn and the result of many sleepless nights in my youth.
"Are you a church going man, Mister Ghoul?"
The woman sat before me is not Satan, nor is her husband, and as a result their child can not be the son of Lucifer. This woman is an angel, unlucky enough to be born in the wrong century. A few hundred years ago and the people would see her as a goddess, a few hundred years in the future and they'd at least see her as an equal, but here, in this trash heap of a world, all that most people see her as, is a maid.
I pop the cigarette I was smoking out of my mouth and breath heavily before responding, smoke billowing out of my mouth as I speak.
"Not really." I cough, sputtering saliva into my gloved hand as I cover my mouth. "But... what I'm curious about is why the Crime Cult went after your son, Josh, specifically." The Tucker couple look at each other for a moment, sharing words silently, than look back to me, the ghost smoking a cigarette in their home. "There must be a reason."
Outside, through the window, the rain has stopped and turned into snow. Heavy snow by the looks of things, which will eventually end up turning into sleet, and soon become mulch once it gets trampled under the boots of the world. That's a good thing though, hopefully the weather will keep people off the streets, and minimise the chances of any bystanders getting caught in any firefights, and with the Cult involved, firefights are basically a guarantee.
"Baby Josh." Jack Tucker says, bringing me back into the room, cigarette burning smoke and ash between my fingers which I promptly ignore. "He was born the same day the Japs bombed Pearl Harbour."
A lightbulb flashes in the slab of meat they call my brain, these people... these poor, unlucky people. Another day pregnant and this whole thing would have been avoided, but this kid, this stupid kid was born the same day over 2000 innocent souls got blown away in some random act of carnage, the very same day millions of Americans were destined to die in this goddamn war we have no business fighting.
The Tuckers look at me expectantly, waiting for my input and thoughts. All I can think about is how out of my league I am, and as a result all I can do is look at the ground and itch the side of my head like some kinda stupid baboon.
Getting to my feet, committed to the cause, I toss my used cigarette out the window, and bring out a replacement while looking down at the couple.
"Are you going to help us?" Mrs Tucker asks as her husband stands up to join me. I flick on my lighter and cool my nerves with smoke and fire.
"If Josh is still alive, I'll bring him back to you." I promise, moving towards the door, leaving a trail of smoke, only for Jack to step in my way and block the exit.
"I know what you do, sir." Jack says to me in a hushed, snarling whisper. He grips my coat and pulls me in close, spitting slightly on my mask leaving little water marks where the spit lands. "Promise me, you promise me, if those monsters have hurt my son, you'll make them pay! You make them pay, goddamn you!"
Angry at the contact I push Jack's hands off my coat and move to the door, refusing to look back as the answer leaves my lips, mumbled slightly by the cigarette between my teeth. "I will, Jack." Is my response. "Thank you for the beer."
Then I leave.
Out the door, in the snow, I realise my mistake, small and insignificant as it might be. Calling him 'Jack' was stupid, he might figure out I know him, and than next thing I know, even if I save their kid, the police will be keeping an eye on their shop and it's goodbye bacon sandwiches, and hello Rikers Island. Deciding to forget about it for now, and moving on, the streets begin to come to life, revealing their true colours that are hidden so well during the day. On a nearby bench, a wino lies passed out, bottle still in hand and breathing heavily from a lively night. While under the shelter of a shop doorway, several hobos shiver from the cold, not likely to survive the night. Without much choice, I pull off my jacket and give it to the homeless for warmth, their appreciation doesn't need words, I tell them to be careful who sees them wearing it, after tonight everyone will be coming after me.
There's a club, not far from the Tucker's place, called 'The Righteous', it's pretty classy, not my sort of place, but it's owned by a guy called Wyatt. I don't know his last name, but I do know he's a high ranking member of the Crime Cult, and definitely worth a visit considering I have no other leads, and no superpowered allies to make the job quick and snappy. If I'm lucky, truly lucky, which I've never been, I'll be able to get through this little escapade without meeting the Cult's leader, Father Cross. The two of us have a history, and he's not likely to forget it.
Just the thought of that history sends a shiver down my spine, so I shove my hands into my armpits to keep them warm, and that's when I remember the revolver holstered to my chest. It's an old, ugly thing, one that I'm thankful for not having had reason to use for purposes other than intimidation, one that I never even kept loaded... until recently. A low wind begins to flow, whipping the snowfall towards me and covering the footprints I've left behind. A sense of finality begins to hit me when I think about the evening, and something dawns on me.
I could very well die tonight.
The glowing blue light shining through polished glass looks like the entrance to Heaven in this morbid dark, yet the graffiti on the walls that reads 'ABANDON ALL HOPE, YE WHO ENTER HERE' reminds me of the entrance to Hell. Surprisingly I actually remember a couple of things from Sunday school, one being that the crucifix cross, when placed upside down, in this case replacing the 't' in 'the Righteous' sign, is the mark of Satan.
It seems I'm at the right place, and judging from the lights, it's open for business, so I open the door, quickly hiding my revolver in the back of my pants before stepping in. The club is dead, empty except for one girl, standing behind the bar, and a kid, around 17 judging from his pimples who's busy mopping the floor. I must look weird to them, hat and mask and goggles looking different to their usual clientele, and they both understandabley stare as I walk towards the bar. Once I turn to talk to the girl, something triggers in my head and I become conscious of the fact that the male can probably see the revolver sticking out the back of my pants.
It's a very nice place, the floor's clean and reflects upwards like a mirror, the stairs act weird and twirl up to the staff's area, and I can tell that if a drunk were to accidentally wander in here, they'd never be seen again.
"Hi there." The girl says, forced smile with a face as tight as the bun of black hair to the back of her head, I catch her name tag, 'Linda' and decide to remember it for future reference. "Can I help you?"
"Sure." I say, trying to sound friendly, as opposed to my usual growl and realising it might have been a better idea to come here without the costume. "I'll have a water, and you can take me to see Mister Wyatt."
Concern flashes across Linda's face for the briefest of seconds, but she's clearly a talented little actress and quickly tries to smile it off.
"Mister Red isn't here right now." She says, grabbing a glass and giving it a quick polish. Instantly I think she might try to slip something into the glass, Poison or some kinda sedative to knock me out. "But I'm sure you can leave a-"
Then the sound of laughter bounces down the stairs, and I catch the concerned look in her eyes again and I know for sure that she's lying, and my nerves start acting up again and I'm tempted to reach for another smoke.
"I'll get you that water."
Linda turns towards the tap, and than I notice the gold jewellery shining from around her neck.
It's a cross, hanging upside down, and I am in a bad situation.
Yet before I can even think to move, or how to react, the fight's already over. The handle of a broom slides by my neck from behind and I curse myself for not keeping an eye on the kid with the supernatural stealth, and I watch as Linda brings my glass of water crashing down onto my skull.
They let me fall to the floor, blackness begins to take me, and I hear them wonder whether or not I was there to join their cult. Than I hear Father Cross and Wyatt shouting from upstairs... and than Linda mentions that she doesn't think that I'm the church going type.
God is she right.