* * * * *
Thursday, August 30, 2012
Police switch boards and 911 answering centers got dozens of calls that night within moments of each other. Among the many calls a significant portion were concerning a disturbance coming from a run down apartment building. People reported strange noises coming from it and few claim to have seen flashes of light through the dirty and broken windows that had not been boarded up. A few of the reports were about the people they saw fleeing the building and screaming. There was one call among them was from an apartment blocks away from a man who thought there might be a domestic disturbance in the apartment above his.
It was that call that caught Sharon Montessi’s attention. Not because of a particular interest in domestic disturbances. It was the address that caught her attention. Because of that she was out on the street rushing to the scene and on the phone with her partner.
“Dennis, I got a possible lead on the Kerns homicide.”
“I’ll take possible.” Dennis Yi responded. He was cold and tried and the coffee wasn’t helping anymore. Dennis was still in the alleyway where they found Butch Kerns’ body. Detective Phil Escobar and his partner Lurch Rollins were still nosing around the scene, but all three were ready to call it a night. “What is it?”
“Domestic disturbance, and not far from you.”
“I’m not tracking.”
“The disturbance is coming from the apartment of one Pilar Ruiz.” Sharon explained as she weaved her car through traffic. “Miss Ruiz is the former girlfriend of one Javier Santiago. Santiago is a pusher for the Crew, and one better, matches the description of Kerns assailant that night.”
“That’s a bit thin, Sharon.”
“You want to stand out in the snow all night?”
What had started out as a simple rundown turned into a fight that threatened to tear down the entire bombed out old tenement that hosted it. It started on the first floor. The fight quickly made its way to the second. Wade Granby quickly realized that holding back was not an option. Javier Santiago had seemed like a frightened punk druggie at first, but had somehow become a force of nature. He struck hard and with almost inhuman speed. Wade’s armor protected him from the blows he couldn’t block, but he still felt them. The entire time the look on Santiago’s face was emotionless. When Santiago put him through a hallway wall and into one of the apartments, Wade went into overdrive.
All the readings the armor’s sensor array was picking up showed Santiago’s core temperature and heart rate as completely normal as if he was barely making any effort. There were odd electro-magnetic spikes forming an aura around him. Wade had not seen that before, but his father had. Monitoring the fight from a safehouse across town, Eric Granby recognized the reading. He had seen similar ones when he played the role his son now occupied as the Ghost of Quadesport.
“Wade! Be careful! He’s possessed!” He shouted into his headset.
That was all the younger Granby needed to hear. The armor had plenty of tricks built in. As the fight continued and Santiago continued his assault, Wade hit him with knockout gas, strobe lights meant to blind him, and a tazer. None of it slowed him down. Wade’s own hand-to-hand training was serving him well enough, but he knew that without the protection of the armor he would be beaten.
By the time the fight reached the roof Wade could hear Police sirens approaching. His breathing was becoming heavy from the exertion of the fight. They squared off on the snow-covered rooftop. Wade was certain that Santiago, or whatever was currently in him would try to escape. Wade had read about cases like this, but this was his first encounter with a possessed foe.
“I’m not going to let you hurt anyone else.” Wade said coldly as the modulator in his helmet made his voice sound inhuman.
“Little pretender,” Javier spoke back completely unfazed. “I am not the one you should be hunting.” He looked as though he was going to charge again, and Wade braced himself for the attack. However, Santiago paused and looked off in the distance. His expression changed and he spoke one word. A name. “Pilar.”
* * * * *
Pilar had never fought so hard in her life. She had taken several self-defense classes, but had no real formal training. She wasn’t terribly strong, but what she had, she used. When the two men broke into her apartment, she hesitated for just a moment from surprise. She immediately threw a vase of flowers from the coffee table at them as hard as she could. That did not slow the intruders down much. The heavier one with the tattoo on his face was already coming across her living room towards her. Pilar was running to the kitchen. When she realized that she would not make it there before the large man was upon her, she grabbed a chair from the modest dining room set and swung it at him with all of her strength. She wasn’t aware of the steady flow of obscenities spewing from her in Spanish.
The chair smashed against the man’s head, and he stopped for a moment to smirk. The blow did not do any visible damage, to the man or the chair. The fall to the floor likely did more damage to the chair. The man’s hesitation did buy Pilar enough time to get to the extra two steps she needed to the kitchen. That was where her keys were, and on her keychain was a pepper spray dispenser. This caught the man by surprise, and he did not have time to cover his face or grab Pilar before she blasted him right in the eyes.
“AH! You little bitch!” The man cried out wiping his face. He did not seem in much pain. More annoyed at the fact the Pilar refused to go quietly. It did take a moment for his eyes to clear and before he could do anything else a large steak knife was buried in his chest. Pilar may not have been a trained fighter, but that did not mean she would not fight. The man staggered backwards. Pilar quickly grabbed up another knife from the counter.
“HA!” The laugh came from the other intruder. The trim man had made his way into Pilar’s living room and was sitting comfortably in a chair. “Admirable.” He said smiling, and before Pilar could reply her arm was jerked backwards and the knife slipped from her grip. The large man had her by the wrist and his other hand quickly came to her throat. The knife was still jutting out from his chest and red was beginning to stain his shirt. If this bothered him at all, he didn’t show it. “But futile.” The trim man continued.
Pilar choked and struggled to breathe as the large man squeezed her neck. She tried with all her strength to pull his hand from her neck. He forced her into the living room and pushed down onto her coffee table. She punched and scratched with her other hand with no results. Her vision was starting to get fuzzy around the edges, and it became harder to struggle. She thrashed savagely. The last thing she heard before darkness consumed her was the thin man. “’Pilar’ eh? How amusing.”
* * * * *
It took less than fifteen minutes before Sharon Montessi arrived at Pilar Ruiz’s apartment. When she saw that the door had been kicked in, she drew her Glock 9mm from her hip holster and prepared to enter the apartment. She knew she should wait for Dennis, but doubted she had time.
“Quadesport Police!” She announced loudly as she turned to see into the apartment. She saw whom she could only assume was Pilar Ruiz lying prone on a coffee table with two men standing over her. The larger man’s shirt was blood stained and torn a bit. The thinner man glanced over at Sharon. Pilar seems to be having a seizure. “Step away from her, right now! Hands where I can see them!” Sharon started forward but was stopped in her tracks at the threshold.
Sharon struggled to move forward but could not. It was as if some invisible barrier was keeping her from entering. The thin man sounded like he was muttering something. Sharon couldn’t make out the words. The larger man looked on. Sharon had been on cases like this before. She wasn’t qualified to explain what was happening, but she knew she had to stop it. She leveled her revolver at the thin man and fired a round. The bullet caught him in the right shoulder. He seemed annoyed.
With a glance from the thin man, the larger man started towards the door. Sharon ordered him to halt. He did not stop. Sharon fired another round this time into the man’s chest. That caused him to take a step backwards, but then he continued forward. Sharon cursed, and fired more rounds into the man. He wouldn’t fall. Instead he grabbed a small table from against a wall and hurled it at Sharon. She easily dodged it. It was then that she saw Dennis, Phil, and Lurch ascending the stairs towards her.
“Guys! We’ve got a couple of freakies in there! I can’t get in”, she called to them. Lurch immediately rushed forwards to the doorway. The larger man looked Lurch over. Lurch put his hand out, as if he was feeling whatever was keeping them from entering. He quickly began speaking in Latin. His fellow officers may not have known what he was saying, but the two men in the apartment certainly seemed to. The thin man locked his gaze on Lurch and seemed to hiss. The larger man rushed the doorway. Dennis and Phil had already drawn their weapons. Flanking Lurch, they fired into the larger man knocking him backwards.
The window shattered as he hit the floor, and not from the impact. Javier Santiago burst in with a rush of winter wind. The thin man’s attention went immediately to him. “She’s ours now!”, he barked at her. Despite having nearly twenty bullets in him the big man began to get up again. His attention was also on Santiago this time. Santiago stared him down coldly. Lurch continued whatever he was saying.
The big man only needed five steps to make it to Santiago. He only got three before The Night Rain burst through the broken window. As soon as Wade entered the apartment, every sensor in his armors helmet array went nuts. Communication with his father back at the safe house was cut off. He shut down the system in the split second it took for him to get from the window to the large blood stained man. The man was bigger and stronger than Wade, but nowhere near as fast as Santiago was. Wade punched the big man straight in the nose and had hit him three more times before he could recover.
The thin man raised his hand toward Santiago and began chanting. Santiago moved forward towards him but it looked as though he was trying to walk hip deep in molasses. Pilar was still lying on the coffee table convulsing.
Dennis aimed his sidearm at the thin man and fired a shot. The shot hit him flush in the side and cause him to stumble. His chanting stopped. The thin man shot Dennis a glare of absolute hatred before Santiago was upon him. Santiago gripped the thin man’s head. “Adepto sicco!” He cried out. The thin man convulsed violently for a second. He couldn’t cry out. The sounds of his bones breaking from the convulsion could be heard. Santiago released him and he crumpled to the floor.
Whatever had been keeping the officers out of the apartment was now gone. They rushed in. Phil and Lurch headed for the struggle between Night Rain and the tattooed man. Dennis and Sharon went to intercept Javier before he got to Pilar. Her convulsions had become less violent, but she was still spasming on the coffee table.
“Both of you, stop!” Phil ordered as he and Lurch leveled their weapons at the combatants. Wade had beaten his large opponent violently. A normal person would have already succumbed to the assault. Somehow, the large bloodied man was still standing. He shoved Wade backwards and turned his attention to the partners.
“You insignificant, little…!” He didn’t have opportunity to complete his insult as Wade’s boot crashed into his knee. With a guttural cry, the big man’s knee broke and he dropped to the floor. Wade wasted no time in punching him in the back of the neck at the base of the skull as hard as he could. The big man wobbled slightly, and then finally fell over. Lurch immediately descended upon him and used a plastic flexcuff to bind his wrists behind his back.
“Seriously, Lurch? That guy ain’t getting’ up.” Phil cocked an eye brow at his partner.
“Not taking any chances.” Lurch replied.
Javier was leaning over Pilar’s prone body as Dennis pointed his weapon right at his head. Javier did not look at the officers, and was focused intently on the young woman. Even though she was unconscious her face was twisted slightly as if in pain. Javier studied her calmly. Dennis and Sharon were anything but calm.
“Get away from her, and lay down on the floor with your hands behind your back.” Dennis commanded, but Javier did not acknowledge him at all. He reached out to her in a slow gentle manner. His voice was calm and even.
“I can save her.” He gently touched her forehead with his fingertips and stood motionless. Phil and Lurch turned from the downed assailant. Dennis shot Lurch a chance. This was Lurch’s field of expertise. Lurch held up a hand to Dennis to get him to back off a little. Dennis kept his weapon on Javier, but ceased his commands. The detectives could barely see Javier’s face as his stringy black hair concealed much of it. His gaze stayed on Pilar. “Exite de illa. Non potes habere eam. Redirent itaque regni.” Pilar’s body started to convulse again. Before anyone could react Javier shouted harshly. “Relinque illam!” She cried out and then relaxed. She went limp upon the table. Her face was peaceful and the rise and fall of her chest showed her breathing evenly. Javier backed away.
“Quick, get on the line to central and get paramedics up here.” Sharon rushed to Pilar’s side. She had not even finished the sentence before Dennis had his phone out and was calling for help for young woman.
Phil had his weapon trained on Wade.
“You want to tell me what you’re doing here, Spooky?” Phil was a fan of Wade’s vigilantism, even though he had to admit that the Night rain’s activities had been a help to the city many times. Wade held his hands up in a nearly submissive gesture and started to back towards the broken window. “Don’t…” A cloud of thick mist quickly filled the apartment. The bitterly cold wind from outside quickly cleared the room, but it was enough time for both Santiago and Granby to escape. It was a favorite tactic of Wade’s, using the armor’s built in smoke screen to cover his exit.
“For the record,” Dennis remarked to his fellow detectives while still on the phone. “when we’re filling out the mountain of paperwork from this debacle, I’m putting a note in there that this whole mess is Phil’s fault.”
“That’s fine. I’ll put a note in there how you’re solely responsible for allowing two suspects to escape.”
* * * * *
On a rooftop two blocks away, Wade Granby and Javier Santiago faced each other as snow fell lightly over the city. Santiago was looking back towards the apartment they had just fled from. Wade was not sure if
there was going to be another fight, and furthermore, he wasn’t sure if he would be able to win it.
“So, what’s your deal?’ Wade asked without using the voice modulator in the helmet. “Are you the one who killed Butch Kerns?’
“No. Butch Kerns was long dead before I put his body to rest.”
“He was possessed.”
Santiago seemed to smile at Granby, but it did not look quite right.
“Not like me. This person, Javier Santiago was murdered by those who tried to just possess Pilar Ruiz. I stepped in at his moment of death and brought him back. He’s my vessel now.”
“That doesn’t sound good.” Wade said, obviously suspicious, but not overtly hostile.
“What I’m offering him is strength and the ability to protect those he loves as well as this city. Something is coming, little pretender, and you may count on my aid when the time comes.”
“A few more details would be nice. Your name for one.”
“Golgotha.” He said simply, and with that he leapt off the roof, disappearing into the night. Wade considered pursuing him, but doubted he could catch him, much less subdue him with he did manage to catch him. Instead he made his way to the closest of the network of safe houses that he used throughout the city, ready to take advantage of the bed waiting there. His sleep was uneasy, for he knew that even if this new player in town was truly an ally, the threat he warned of would likely be a dire one.