Javier Santiago had been called many things in his life, but brave was never one of them. It was his first instinct upon being faced with what he thought was a vengeful spirit to run. He went with it. He managed not to scream. He was already running down the dingy stairs before the Night Rain had come out into the hallway. He looked back briefly and saw the dark figure with the flashing red eyes. He immediately turned his attention back to not falling down the stairs.
“They always run.” Wade Granby muttered under the suit. He had switched the armor’s voice modulation aspect off. The only person that could here him was a man sitting at a computer consol miles away monitoring the action through the armor’s sensor array.
“That’s one thing about pretending to be a ghost, Wade, you get no shortage of cardio chasing down frightened suspects.” Eric Granby sat behind the consol and memories of his tenure as the ‘Ghost of Quadesport’ ran through his mind. He had chased done more than his fair share of people before turning the role over to his son.
“Well, this guy is pretty damn fast.” Wade leapt into the stairwell, taking entire flights of stairs at a time. He had done this hundreds of time, and he knew he would be upon his target in a matter on minutes.
Javier continued running. He was panicked and the only direction he was heading was out of the building. He was already breathing hard. There was only one more flight of stairs left then just a quick sprint to the street. He thought he would be safe once he was out of the building. He had no reason to think that, but his mind was already over tasked with everything that was happening. He was having enough trouble wrapping his mind around what had happened in the alley, or whatever else had gone on during his blackouts. Now, the Ghost of Quadesport was after him. Javier was not sure that he believed in ghosts, but he knew something was after him and it scared him. He made it to the bottom floor, the sole of his shoe slapping the dirty tiles.
He suddenly knew something was coming. It was not the shadowy figure pursuing him. It was something new. He also became aware that he had stopped running. He had made it to the hall and was within a few yards of the door he had been scrambling desperately to get to. He saw the door, and then he started not to see the door. The last thing he was fully aware of was him turning against his will to face the red-eyed thing behind him.
The red-eyed phantom stopped as well at the bottom of the stairs. The man he had been chasing down was facing him now. Santiago had been a bit hunched over when he first saw him. He now stood straight. His face was expressionless, and his stringy black hair hung in it a bit. Santiago was certainly a thin man, but the way he stood gave an impression of confidence and strength.
“Dad, you seeing this?” The helmet’s display gave Wade plenty of information. He was able to track Santiago’s every move with it. Now in a clear line of sight the displays dumped every bit of information onto the mini-screens in front of Wade’s eyes. It also sent the information to Eric Granby’s screens where he advised and watched his son.
“His pulse and heart rate just dropped significantly.” The senior Granby noted. “You usually only see a heart rate like this from professional athletes. His core temperature is now steady at ninety-six six. Watch yourself, son.”
“You run drugs for The Crew, Santiago.” Wade said through the voice modulator. It made him sound inhuman, but if that fazed Santiago he did not show it. “Butch Kerns was murdered last night. You know who did it.”
“No.” Santiago said barely above a whisper. Wade’s helmet picked up and amplified Santiago’s words. “Butch Kerns died long before last night.” Wade was taken aback. He had been bluffing, hoping to panic Santiago into giving up information.
“Wade, this is wrong on a ton of levels. I’m seeing weird EM readings strobing off this guy. He’s got to be enhanced.” Eric was starting to worry for his son. He knew Wade had the best training possible, even better than he had when he was his son’s age. Still, he felt a very noticeable chill in his spine even in a safehouse miles away. More and more people were becoming more than people. Javier Santiago seemed to fall into that category.
“You’re not leaving until you tell me what you know.” Wade snarled and his altered voice echoed through the building startling even the most drugged out residents. He clinched his fists and prepared to charge the thin man in front of him.
“Yes.” Santiago responded. “I am.”
“Well?” Dennis Yi asked as he stood in the alleyway where Butch Kerns had been murdered. This case already had him in a surly mood, and the possibility of something supernatural being involved did not help his disposition one bit.
“You really can’t see it?” Lurch Rollins asked as he looked up from the dingy slush towards his fellow detectives.
“So help me, Lurch.” His partner, Phil Escobar, snapped, “If you start going on about some freaky vision thing again I’m having the LT drug test you.”
“Fine.” Lurch uttered as he pulled a handheld device from his coat pocket. “You know what this is, right?”
“That’s the EM detector.” Dennis answered. “You can measure electromagnetic signatures with it.”
“Exactly.” Lurch knelt in the icy alley and held the device right where they had found Butch Kerns’ body. He turned it on and it immediately came to life, buzzing loudly. The small meter on it was fully illuminated. “There is a ley line that runs not more than three blocks from here right through the city. It fluctuated right around the victim’s time of death.”
“So you’re saying something supernatural killed Kerns?” Dennis was wishing that he had not volunteered to accompany Lurch and Phil to the crime scene. His partner, Sharon, was still at the station checking some more files before calling it a night. She had a better disposition about dealing with cases that go bump in the night.
“Definitely possible.” Lurch stood up and turned the device off. “Dennis, are you sure Butch Kerns was human?”
Pilar Ruiz was trying to enjoy an old movie in her living room. As much as she wanted to lose herself in the film, she found herself distracted. Javier showing up at her doorstep had been a surprise, but she knew it was bound to happen sooner or later. It dredged up a slew of bad memories that she had wanted to stay buried. Javier was not the one who had gotten her hooked on heroin, but he certainly was not the one who helped her quit either. They had lived in the apartment together for over a year. They claimed to love each other, but really all they were to each other was someone to help pay the bills and shoot up with.
Pilar finally quit using after waking up on the floor next to Javier in a pool of vomit and to that day she was not sure whose vomit it was. Detox was hard. Rehab was harder. Not one day went by when she did not want to shoot up. Fortunately Pilar’s reason kept that urge in check. She buried herself in her job to keep herself distracted. Workaholics live longer than drug addicts. The new vice worked well for her. Her supervisors took notice of her new drive and initiative. Within a few months she found herself able to pay her bills and her rent all by herself. She was well on her way to getting out of the debt she had racked up while she was using, to the point that she was happy to answer her phone not worried that it would be a bill collector on the other end of the line.
But then there came the knock on the door, and sure enough there was her junkie ex-boyfriend collapsing in front of her. She was mentally kicking herself for not calling the police. But she let him sleep in her bathroom and gave him some breakfast the next morning while kicking him out. Had she known she would be dwelling on her past so much after seeing him she would have slammed the door in his face.
Her heart skipped and she gasped when there was a knock on her door. She clenched her teeth. She decided that if it were Javier on the other side of the door that she would call the police. She got up and adjusted the plush blue robe she was wearing before starting towards the door.
She did not make it four steps before the door was smashed off its hinges. She screamed as splinters of wood from the frame cascaded across her living room. Two men were entering the room. One was older and wearing a dress shirt and slacks under a heavy overcoat. He was rather pale with sharp features and short cropped brown hair. The other man was larger with a shaved head that had a tattoo of Japanese Oni mask on the side of it. He was wearing heavy street clothes, which despite being loose fitting did not hide the fact that he was thickly muscled.
Pilar did not have time to demand who they were before the larger man spoke.
“You can blame Santiago for this.”
Pilar did not make it to the phone.
About this month's artist: Marty Nozz writes this stuff, and is going to try to start posting these again on a regular basis.