"MASKED RAMPAGE ON CRIME CONTINUES!" reads the most recent headline, now pinned to the board resting on the living room wall. The latest article is one of many that have found their way onto the cheap cork. Another focuses on one of the latest vigilantes to hit the streets in recent years. One who's been able to make the headlines with almost every encounter they've made with any citizen, criminal or Police Officer in New York City. Even though the masked "superhero", as they are still referred to by some, never gave themselves a name, there was no end to suggestions given by the newspapers, eye witnesses or criminals unlucky enough to have come face-to-face with the "hero's" reinforced fist or boot. Each collected article either used a new name - ones that seemed to stick, if only for a day or two - or now contained the title uttered on the lips of all who they encountered; The Grim Rider.
The name itself bore rather negative connotations in its first few uses in black and white, but sure enough, it began to stick. For the first time in the career of this vigilante, they had finally been given a name; an identity.
Unlike other heroes to hit the streets since the first public appearance of Kick Ass and his rise to fame, this masked hero kept to themselves. These days, there was no end to the number of masked faces willing to engage with the reporters, any camera pointed their way turned into the perfect photo opportunity and lapped up by the vast online community. The Grim Rider, however, was one of the few to follow in the footsteps of the well-known assassin, Hit Girl. The only chance of meeting this 6ft 4 behemoth in the flesh was as a criminal – hardly the most sensible way for any meaningful interaction to take place – or if anyone were brave enough to approach with a camera. Unsurprisingly, no one was brave enough. You didn't seek out this masked vigilante, didn't want his eagle-eyed gaze to fall on you. Those left behind after a night stalking the streets for crime made one thing abundantly clear; you didn't want to be a target for the Grim Rider.
The only thing the public knew about the Grim Rider was their gender: male. The story of the person residing behind the mask was left up to the imagination of anyone who wanted to create any number of myths about the life he led. In his own eyes, however, his life was no more exciting than that of the ordinary citizen living in the state of New York.
The apartment in which he lived was purposely plain and utilitarian. The front door opened to the open-plan kitchenette which was attached to the austere living area, and contained a small round table and two dining chairs. Though two chairs always sat at the table, there was only a finished meal for one; a single large bowl that had once contained a pasta and tuna mix and an empty protein shaker. The entire meal sat atop a woven, brown mat and coaster set. Another two place settings remained in their rightful place in a cupboard. This arrangement was standard for most nights of the week. Surrounding the table were the bare cupboards and fridge-freezer that stood against the sink.
Just like the kitchen, the furniture here was minimal, creating an incredibly uninviting atmosphere. Exactly the way he preferred it to be. The furniture he allowed himself for his living space was a sofa (for two) and a small television sitting on top of a DVD player and table. Below the table was piled a collection of films; The Punisher, Man on Fire, Taken, among others. Lastly, connected to the living area was the bedroom. A chest of drawers, double bed and an en-suite bathroom were the only luxuries he allowed himself, not including the television and collection of violent films he owned. If he felt it wasn't worth the asking price, or added nothing to his life, it remained on the shelf on which it sat.
The apartment as a whole was exactly the way he wanted it - unwelcoming. There were only ever two guests who entered his home and neither of them ever took notice of how he lived. They were the closest thing to family he'd. Plus, the fact one of them was a child, and their vocabulary rather limited, meant their opinions on home décor were non-existent. He never saw the way he lived as a problem – and neither did they - so he never made any attempts to change it.
As the only resident of the apartment moved silently within the four walls, he took in everything around him. This was his home. No matter its unappealing nature on the surface, at least in the eyes of those who didn't know him, there was nothing wrong with the way he lived. Though he may have a biased opinion on the subject because this was his residence, the truth was this was a clean and perfectly liveable home. He always kept it clean and hygienic, perhaps a little too much. Everything he possessed had its place, its own designated seat. If he were to add anything else to the mix, it would be out of place; an interloper crossing the threshold into the home he made sure to keep secret, secure.
However, right here and now, something was most definitely out of place. After exiting the shower and putting on a pair of shorts, he moved to the kitchenette and immediately knew something was wrong. A foreign body had crossed the threshold. The cool, light breeze was the first intimation something was amiss. The single living room window was only ever opened when the resident occupied the sofa. That way, if someone were to gain access, he would be facing them, making sure the intruder was made fully aware of the dire mistake the moment it was committed. The second giveaway to the unwanted presence of an alien was the light shimmering off her purple jacket. She may have gained illegal access to his abode, but she was no threat. He knew that if she were, the heart currently beating in his chest would be doing the exact opposite. She was Hit Girl after all. The one sure way of knowing if your first encounter will likely be your last, is whose side you're fighting on. Luckily for the Grim Rider, the reputation he'd built over the past year was enough to let them both know they were on the same team. There was, however, one thing on his mind; what the fuck was she doing here?
Asking that particular question out loud would more than likely end badly, he knew that much. Instead, he took another approach. He decided to begin the conversation with something he rarely used when talking to those he'd never spoken to before, but thought she may appreciate.
"Criminal trespass is a felony in New York State, you know. Then again, the law's a little lost on you isn't it?" A joke. What better way to begin your first ever discourse with the purple clad legend herself, than opening with a joke? Somehow, he didn't see it coming across that way. He'd always known he wasn't exactly a sparkling conversationalist, had never taken it upon himself to practise, so opening with a joke was something new for him; something he would never have usually bothered with. Engaging with others was always something he made sure to keep as quick and minimal as possible. Then again, this was no ordinary person. Mindy Macready is far from ordinary. What he didn't expect from her was the almost unnoticeable smirk gracing the corner of her mouth. That's a good sign, he thought to himself.
"I think the law's a little lost on us both, don't you, Grim?" she answered, her smile now clearly visible, her hands placed sassily upon her hips.
"I guess it is," he responded. Now facing her, he took in the entire image, or at least that which was visible in the rather dim corner of his living room. he'd never had the pleasure of meeting the famed vigilante, Hit Girl, in the flesh before, so she was quite a sight to behold. Then again, the year of her incarceration at Rikers Island had prevented any such opportunities arising.
For his first encounter, he couldn't help but think, shit, that's a lot of purple! Even in the shadows, the purple leather of her jacket caught the late night glow of the moon. She certainly wasn't trying to hide, but had chosen to reside in the shadows until he'd entered, lurking like a predator waiting for its prey to fall within sights before striking. Claiming its prize. Only he wasn't her prey, so what was he? This was a question she had the answer to, and it was time to find out what it was.
"So, how can I help you, Ms Macready?" he asked, keeping the conversation as formal as possible. He'd already used up his joke and hadn't even planned on using one, if any, until he got to work the next morning. Though she posed little threat to him, there was still an uncomfortable atmosphere surrounding them. She'd gained access to his home, without even the common decency of knocking on his door and running the risk of being turned away, and had still to tell him why she was here. Just as he'd thought, far from ordinary.
"The last person to call me Ms Macready was my therapist," she responded, the smile wiped clear, "Only I hated that fucker, so I'd prefer either Hit Girl or Mindy, if it's all the same to you." He felt the slight hostility in her words, as if somehow he'd managed to pluck at a taut nerve. She'd only escaped Rikers a little over three months ago. Perhaps whatever she'd experienced behind those walls had left some negative effects on her. The way she mentioned her distaste for her therapist was enough to more than hint at the possibility. His actions on the streets over the past year had resulted in a number of criminals behind bars. He couldn't even imagine what it would be like to be an officer of the law, or a masked superhero, having to live behind bars, surrounded by the filth you swore to protect the innocent from. God only knows what shit she went through in there, he thought to himself.
"I see. But you still haven't answered my question." There was a slight pause before Mindy took it upon herself to respond.
"Me and Kick Ass have been watching you. Well, me more than him, anyway." She looked him up and down before continuing, "And we have a proposition for you."
There it was. She breaks into his home and for what, because she wants something out of him. This was just another one of the reasons he tried his best to steer clear of social interactions, even from those wearing a mask just like him. They all want something from you. As soon as they know what you can do, they expect access to your services. How the fuck can I help you? he thought to himself. Who'd have imagined Hit Girl was another needy New Yorker?
He was always prepared to fight for someone, to step in when they needed it. But the way he worked was that they never asked for his help. It was always his decision to look for trouble, to get involved. He enjoyed the work he did behind the mask and had no shame in admitting it. He never took requests, like some of the other heroes chose to. He wasn't a fucking DJ, after all.
Of course, he chose to not say these thoughts aloud. He knew most of the things he said to himself on a regular basis would only cause unwanted trouble. The one thing he didn't need was any kind of grief from Hit Girl. Not ever. With a sigh, he decided to find out exactly what it was she wanted out of him, but not without pouring himself a glass of whiskey first. He removed the unopened bottle and glass from the cupboard. Leaving the bottle on the side when he was finished, he imagined he would need another quite soon.
"What kind of proposition?" There was a slight hesitation in his words. He hoped the intended air quotes around the word "proposition" came across. Maybe she would leave, knowing her attempts to coerce him were futile.
Instead, she emerged from the shadows of the room where she'd remained since their conversation began. This allowed him to see her features far more clearly. With her short stature and young face, at least what he could see of it, she didn't give off the deadly demeanour he knew she so effortlessly possessed. With his considerably more muscular physique – thank you rigorous gym routine - and his being at least a foot taller then her, he wondered if he appeared as deadly as she, in fact, was. He knew he was intimidating, both in and out of costume, which he used to his advantage during confrontations. However, Mother Russia had succumbed to the deadly force that was Mindy Macready, from what he'd heard, and she was a member of The Mother Fuckers team of villains. She would never have quivered at the sight of him, so why would Hit Girl?
"Like I said, we've been watching you, and we think you can help us."
Not only had he thought it, but she'd come out and said it herself. She wanted his help. He cleared his throat, adjusted his shoulders and further furrowed his brow as she uttered the words "help us". From the beginning, he'd always worked alone, had never even considered the preposterous idea of working alongside a masked citizen playing superhero. The idea of having a sidekick getting in the way, trying to stop him from leaving criminals bloodied and beaten, even begging for him to show mercy, wasn't an appealing one.
When it came to violence there was no safe word, which he took full advantage of. He only knew to stop when the damage was done. He saw Kick Ass being that kind of partner in crime, yelling to the heavens with all kinds of safe words in an attempt to get him to stop the beating he would be inflicting on a deserving thug. There was no doubt in his mind he respected Kick Ass, and that was the truth. Without him out on the streets, he didn't want to think about the state New York would be in today. Hell, across America, even. Frank D'Amico would still be king of the criminal underworld and living in the concrete jungle of New York City.
Of the dynamic duo, Hit Girl and Kick Ass, however, he preferred the lack of morals Hit Girl had when it came to taking scum head on. She took the no-holds-barred approach, as did he. Only she brandished the expensive gear, whereas hand-to-hand combat was more his style. He admired them both and their choice to fight for justice; he just didn't see how Kick Ass and he would be compatible.
He never thought that some day one of them would approach him or, in this case, break into his apartment, to ask for his services. There was some slight intrigue as to what her proposition was. These two were the real deal, both alone and as a team. They'd only become a public team since her escape from prison, and the results of their work spoke for itself. The duo was able to get the job done, showing prejudice towards any criminal and little restraint to those who truly deserved it. Well, Hit Girl was known for showing very little restraint, not so much Kick Ass. But I'm no team player, he thought to himself. However, she didn't know that. She only saw what he was capable of when in costume, not his lack of desire to socialise with other human beings in all walks of his life.
Taking a large gulp, emptying his glass, he scratched the back of his head. He didn't know what to do, so decided to tackle the situation the way he always did when faced with a challenge. He proceeded to pour himself another drink from the bottle on the counter, turning his back to her once again.
With his back turned, he knew he was leaving himself exposed. He couldn't see what she was doing, so could only guess she was taking the opportunity to have a quick glance at her surroundings. After he'd finished his strict meal of carbohydrates and protein, he'd vacated the kitchen, removed his clothes and taken to the shower. The time he'd left the room, removed the blood and sweat from his body and put on his shorts couldn't have taken more than five minutes, he was sure he'd counted without even meaning to. No time to waste. Hit Girl therefore had utilised a short window to break in and take her position in the corner of the living room, awaiting his return to the kitchen to clean up. But what did she have time to see? he thought to himself.
After refilling his glass, he placed it on the coaster where his protein shaker had resided before he'd placed it in the sink. As he sat, he began to run his hands through what hair he had left and rubbed across his eyelids; his night on the streets had left him weary and yearning for some much needed shut eye. Her presence impeded such a desire, although whether she knew that and was using it to gain an advantage he had no way of knowing. One thing he did know, however, was that she wasn't going anywhere anytime soon.
With a thumb and forefinger pressed tightly into the corners of his tightly closed eyes, white spots dancing, he heard the floor creak and the scraping of an object across the kitchen laminate. Removing his hand, he saw she'd decided to occupy the only remaining seat opposite him. Please, make yourself comfortable. He was beginning to lose his patience with her. Not only had she broken in, something he just couldn't stop thinking about, but had decided to sit down across from him like she'd been invited to do so. She'd clearly taken it upon herself to make it known she wasn't going anywhere. By asking him for his help, she obviously wanted a definitive answer to take away with her. Something told him she was only going to bless his wish of her absence if he gave her the answer she came for.
"So…" he dragged out the word as he now stared straight at her, "you stalk me for fuck knows how long, follow me, proceed to break into my home and then have the audacity to ask me for my help in whatever quest you and your green friend plan to embark on. Just who the fuck do you think you are, Ms Macready?" His ire at her sheer nerve had gotten the better of him, and his inner thoughts had taken over. She was in his home, goddammit! Here, he had the right to speak however he saw fit, especially to those he deemed unwelcome. Right now, Hit Girl was exactly that, and he wanted to make sure she knew it.
Considering his dangerously short fuse, it was never very difficult for people to piss him off, and Hit Girl had already managed it, in their first encounter no less. There were times, however, when the Vesuvius that dwelt within him came in handy. When in combat with those he deemed low enough on the food chain – criminal lowlife - he used the anger inside to complete the task he'd undertaken; to eviscerate the streets of New York City of as many criminals as he could until he met his end.
He wasn't worried about this, however. Yes, Hit Girl had managed to piss him off, but that was only because of how she'd gained entry. Therefore, he couldn't hold the fact that she'd managed to break in against her because he was more angry at himself. How could I be so fucking careless? was all he could think to himself while she sat across from. Somehow, he'd managed to let his guard down and allow her to follow him home, one of the worst mistakes he could ever make. If Hit Girl was prepared to do it, then god only knows who else could try. That was something he didn't want to think about, especially when considering he wasn't always alone in his home, even if his current situation hadn't given away such information. If something were to ever happen to them...No! Don't even fucking think about it! With that train of thought coming to an abrupt end, he had to take a deep breath and remind himself he was still in the here and now; they were still safe.
He hadn't meant to refer to her as Ms Macready again, but it had managed to slip out when he took a snap at her. From the low grunt and clearing of her throat, he knew he'd taken a second strike to that nerve he believed she had. He wasn't sorry. The Macready girl was well known, not only for her viciousness - both in and out of costume - but also her seemingly effortless ability to mix vulgarity with everyday conversation. Her language almost certainly managed to get a rise out of most people she spoke to, as her vulgar vocabulary was typically peppered with insults directed at those unlucky enough to be in the firing line. Only this time, he'd made the first move and then a second. He knew she would more likely have something up her sleeve, possibly a knife, or, at the very least, a thesaurus of creative insults purposely designed to emasculate any man. If she doesn't mention the seven bottles of Jack to my right, then she's either blind or too stupid to use my addiction against me. Ha! he thought to himself, mentally grinning and making sure to keep that train of dialogue in his mind, rather than let it escape again. She wasn't that stupid.
With her sitting across from him, merely a metre or so away, he'd made sure to maintain eye contact, even when the only words being spoken were in his mind. He knew his face would give nothing away, but that wouldn't stop her from trying to gut him with her words. He looked forward to it.
"From the looks of it, Grim, it sure as shit don't look as though I'm interrupting anything particularly fucking special, does it now? From the meal for one and glass in your hand, I can see you wined-and-dined alone tonight. And the pathetically empty looking home you live in," her sneer was worth a thousand words, "means no one's going to be coming in anytime soon. Because there is no one else living here, right? I've got all night." She leaned back in the chair, her body relaxed, so confident in her assessment of his situation.
He couldn't help but smirk at her words. She'd done exactly as he'd foreseen, but he felt nothing. Her words didn't hurt him, which was more than likely her intention. She was fishing, looking for signs of weakness she could exploit and, although what she said was true, it wasn't anything he didn't already know about himself and his life. It was what she didn't know about him that allowed her words to be nothing more than rounds hitting a bulletproof surface. The armour was there to protect the wearer, or in his case, protect those he held dear. He blinked slowly, never taking his gaze from her as he lifted the whiskey to his lips and took a long, slow swallow,
"You still haven't told me just what it is you want from me," he said, bringing their incredibly bland conversation back on track. He wanted to at least hear what she had to say before rejecting her offer and throwing her out. He'd then proceed to acquire better tools to increase his security. This kind of thing wasn't going to happen again. She didn't show any sign she was disappointed in his lack of reaction, and he was pleased with that. No game should be too easy.
"As I'm sure you've heard, D'Amico's back in action. Kick Ass and I are planning to take him down. Based on the…potential we believe you have, we'd like you to join us." Again, he ignored the condescension implicit in her tone and concentrated on the content.
The name Chris D'Amico was one that had peppered the headlines after his release from the hospital, only to resurface again as one of New York's criminal elite. The investigation into The Mother Fucker had cleared his name, even though it was common knowledge it was his face behind the mask. In this city however, money exchanges hands so quickly, the corruption allowing you to get away with almost anything. For the D'Amico crime family, there seemed to be no end of funds available to pay off the so-called law enforcement dedicated to protecting this fair city. What a fucking joke. This was where the masked vigilantes - or superheroes, if you preferred - came into action. Their dedication to beat back the criminal underworld was what kept their beloved city being lost to the scum roaming the streets.
It was also common knowledge that both Kick Ass and Hit Girl had a personal vendetta for him, as did he for them. Of course this blood feud would come to an end at some point - and bloodily, no doubt - but did he want to become part of it? He'd never met The Mother Fucker before, only the occasional stray of his band of villains who still roamed the streets. With Chris having been off the hook for a good nine months however, the number of followers bearing his mark had grown. Just because he had no personal hatred toward the rich kid, didn't mean he couldn't do something about it, though. Hit Girl was offering him the opportunity to extinguish the youngest in the D'Amico crime organisation. She may have gone about it the wrong way, but how could he refuse?
The D'Amicos weren't just known for their extortion, limitless cash and get-out-of-jail-free-cards, but also the brutality of the goons they hired to do the real dirty work while they sat atop their thrones in the penthouse suite. The thugs were like the heads of a Hydra; remove one and two take its place. But if you hit hard and fast enough, the numbers could dwindle and, just like the girl sitting across from him, he enjoyed the fight. Whether it be against the common thug, the bodyguard, the pimp or even the lowest of drug dealers, he never backed out of an opportunity to deal out punishment to those who deserved it.
He couldn't help but sit there and ponder what she'd asked of him. Taking on New York's deadliest crime family, if not the entire East Coast, would be no simple task. For Hit Girl to ask for his help was a sure sign she knew it, too. If she wanted help to take him down, then he wasn't going to back away from such a challenge.
Before giving her his answer, he downed the little alcohol remaining in the glass and set it back down on its coaster, centring it without being aware of doing so. Neither of them spoke, the awkward silence slowly beginning to build. Mindy even appeared to become restless, fidgeting in her seat, her arms crossing over her chest, and a long sigh exhaling through her nostrils. He didn't know why, but he couldn't help but smirk – inwardly, of course. The girl had come to him seeking his help, only she'd gone about it in a less than appropriate way. Now, here she was, getting restless because he was keeping her waiting. I was under the impression she'd all night he thought to himself, as the possibilities bounced around in his mind. Patience was obviously not her strong suit.
He looked at her then, his head tilting slightly as one eyebrow rose. From the smile slowly twitching at the corner of her mouth, his answer was now common knowledge to everyone in the room - all two of them. She knew he'd accepted, and couldn't help but full-on smile at his reluctance to give her what she wanted out loud.
"Welcome aboard, fucker."
To be continued...
AN: This is my first piece and I would like to dedicate it to the writers who's works I have followed, and continue to follow, since joining Fanfiction. It's because of them I even decided to write this story. All kinds of reviews welcome.