Chapter 1: The Man in the Black Coat
The man in the black coat clutched his parcel close. His wild eyes darted to the side for only an instant as officers raced past him and into the chaos of sirens and fire. Somewhere behind him a den of sin was aflame, and it was done by his hand. A gleeful giggle slipped out of his mouth.
They deserved it, the lot of them. He told himself, limbs trembling from exertion. He felt exhilarated, but at the same time somehow confused.
“Run piggy, piggy...” He muttered after the sprinting officers. They ignored him.
He felt himself take quick tiny breaths and shook his head to keep himself from hyperventilating. With the jarring motion came thoughts; It all felt so odd to him, wrong somehow. What with the dead. All the dead people behind him in that place…
But what had happened? How did I…?
Another tiny, ignored voice pleaded for the answer to a simple question: Who am I?
He told himself he would ask that question later. He knew only what they called him. At present there were a few more things he couldn’t quite remember that took precedence. Like how he knew exactly how to kill so many people in so many different ways.
And why it was so damn funny.
A weak gasp caught his attention. His steps faltered at the sound. He cast his eyes around him quickly, and then realized where the sound came from.
There was a woman in his arms. His parcel.
Strange. He almost forgot.
From beneath the swaths of satin sheets she had been wrapped in, he could feel the warmth of her blood on his arms. Her bare feet dangled over one elbow and her shoulders rested in the crook of the other, head tilted forward and pressed against his chest.
I suppose this is why. This is how I could do all those things. Because this happens if I don’t. Because the world fouls everything. Everything beautiful gets ruined, intimacy is replaced by violence, violence, violence....
He felt a wash of anger sweep through his mind, and he clenched his eyes shut to push it back. The fringes of his vision were stained crimson when he opened them again, and he felt the anxious rattle of his heart. Slowly, images started to return to him in blurred clips and fragments. The smell of the place, latex and sweat; the flickering of the outside light; The ‘Pussycat’ sign in pink neon; the beaded curtains; the loud music and sounds of pain; the familiar man with the hooked nose perched at the foot of a bloody bed, naked and perverse, knife in hand –
He had known him, this man. Or... thought he did.
What... what is this? What happened to me? I have to... remember…
The man in the black coat staggered, a lance of pain rocking him to the side. His eyes burst with light and his mind trembled with the jolt. He shouldered the wall of the nearest building and rolled to rest his back against it. The people in the street who watched the police invade the Pussycat Club didn’t even give him a second glance.
As he tried to reach for the memories of before this night, it was like his own mind rebelled, and a headache of mythic proportions stabbed into his temples. And this denial of his own memory made him so unbearably angry…
No, no more anger tonight. No more pain…
Little lights flashed in his vision as he tried to calm himself down. He could feel the sparks as they flit between his fingertips and arched over the woman’s body in his arms.
A street lamp flickered nearby.
That. That too, where did this come from? These... sparks? Could I... do this before?
The woman let out a few quick, shallow breaths, and as he looked, her brow furrowed and her eyes moved beneath closed lashes.
“I know.” He murmured and pushed himself back to the street, crimson edged vision receding. “I hate no knowing.”
As he walked he took deep breaths, using each footstep as his rhythm. He kept his eyes forward. Once he had to stop at an intersection for the light to change. The woman made fewer noises now.
The man in the black coat glanced down, and studied her face.
Her skin was clear and pale. Speckles of scarlet dotted her neck and the side of her face. She had delicate, shapely lips. They were in a serene line on her face, complementing the straight line of her petite nose and the elegant arch of her eyebrows. Her cheekbones were high and punctuated by a deepening shadow in her cheeks. Her hair was raven black and long, her bangs were layered, framing her face with feathered night. When he admired the whole picture, he thought Balanced.
So very unlike me, I suppose.
He took a step off the curb and almost killed himself. His foot started to slide out from under him, and it took an impulsive convulsion of his muscles to right himself and not spill them both onto the sidewalk.
His brow furrowed when she didn’t make a sound, however his eyes widened in surprise when he realized he had slipped on blood.
Most likely hers.
“Almost there, Lady. Almost there.” He urged her to hold on, clutching her closer to his chest.
Why didn’t I just leave her there for the cops?
He wasn’t going to make it there in time – the hospital was on Avery, which was six blocks away. He should have left her with the police. But that thought was blocked by the boggling epiphany that he knew where the hospital was at all.
He watched someone walk by and almost slip in that same smear of blood. They looked horrified and fled away. He chuckled, but they ignored him.
Oh. I remember something.
He didn’t want them to see him. And he didn’t want them to see her. It happened before. Earlier.
The man in the black coat looked down at the woman again. What had she done to deserve this? Did she deserve to be looked at like some poor victim? Pitied? Condemned for what had happened to her, regardless of the pain it caused? Did she deserve this pain?
He mucked up these thoughts, these old friends, and forced them into the open. He ground his teeth together and let his breathing become ragged with anger. He felt the prickle of danger with these thoughts, and the tiny voice that pleaded for recognition now pleaded for his caution.
The truth? He was just like this woman, this involuntary whore. It was unfair what happened to him and what happened to her. They did not deserve this; either of them. He was not about to let anything get in the way of his answers. And this woman? Well.
The streetlight flickered, and the bulb exploded, which left the street in darkness – except for him and the injured woman.
His eyes, blue as an electric current, glared ahead, narrowed in suspicion at the world around him. From the corners of his eyes arched strands of lightning, touching his shoulders, bounding down his arms and chest, to caress the prone woman in his arms.
She shuddered and he held her tighter.
“Fuck the world. They can’t put you down. And they can’t put me down.” He growled to her, teeth clenched and lips curled.
He started to run. He pulled at the silken sheets he remembered wrapping her in when this night started. He tried with one arm to pull more fabric to the underside of the cradle she created in his arms, and bolted down the six blocks with the world blurring around him, rimmed in red. Streaks of her black hair curled around his chest as he ran. He ignored the splash of puddles he had to cross, and left a crackling charge in his wake.
The man in the black coat felt a laugh rip from his chest.
He was in sight of the hospital soon, the emergency drop off in sight! He could simply leave her by the entrance and no one would see him –
She moaned into his chest, and slender fingers pulled at a fold in his jacket.
He almost fell. The surprise sent fear like a noose around his neck. He could almost hear his boots skid across the asphalt as he started to pull her away from his chest, eyes wide, the crimson lining in his sight quickly vanishing with the crackle of his fingertips.
He had stopped in the middle of the road, and they were bathed in the fluorescent lights of the giant ‘emergency access’ sign above.
His heart seemed to stop for a moment. She shouldn’t be…I should put her down and leave so they can find her. I’m wasting time.
His eyes tracked the curves under the sheets and followed the length of her arm as it rested on his chest – and curled up in her palm was a tiny fold of his coat.
The man in the coat felt something break inside.
His mouth parted and his eyes saw blindly ahead as hers fluttered open to look at him. She could see his face and the light in his eyes and she wasn’t afraid. They were green, a nearly neon but soft, and they were filled with emotions he couldn’t identify.
His eyes blinked and for a moment he wasn’t confused. He felt the corner of his mouth quirk upwards, giving this woman a smile not unlike the smiles he gave to many others this evening.
Weakly, the woman’s eyes closed, and her hand released from the coat.
He let out a breath, and it released in a shaky whoosh. In moments he had stridden towards the doors, the motion activated sensor going off and a wash of conditioned air hit him in the face.
I hate this place.
His heart palpitated in his chest. He had to leave. The smell and the white of this hospital reminded him of somewhere else, and he didn’t like it. He flicked his eyes away, this way and that as if someone were going to charge from the bright fluorescent to attack.
He knelt carefully and gently laid her on the floor. He took great care in freeing his arms from beneath her – but at the last second, her arm moved and caught just the barest tips of his fingers.
His heart stopped in panic, but he couldn’t bring himself to move.
What if I had reached out and found something other then empty air?
Her lips released a small, dizzying sigh and her arm dropped to the pavement.
At the release of her hand another lance of pain struck him like a hammer between the eyes, and he threw himself back and away from the woman.
It seared through his thoughts as the first orderly raised the alarm. Blinded by an inexplicable pain, he staggered from the doors, past the unoccupied fleet of ambulances and away, into the darkness of Cellar City.
Something here is familiar… something here… Why can’t I remember? What did they do to me?
He ran a hand across the back of his neck, feeling the raised skin from the mark there. He snarled into the night. Once free of the shouting and clamoring of the hospital, He turned his eyes onto the city, caged in by the walls and ceilings and supports of the city above.
His good deed already began to recede and the man in the black coat moved off into the night, another matter on his blank-sheet mind. Past the hatred and the anger at this night, past the borrowed black coat and the blood of an innocent woman, he had a need he had to see to. His skewed mind clamored both for and against his vengeance.
He would find them. He would find them and they would give him answers.“…Arrowhead…”