Mark Chandar. Born in the USA. Half British, half American. A young veteran from the Russo-American war in Hawaii.
Such carnage named war left its scars, no doubt. As soon as he returned home, he looked for another place to stay, far away from his parents.
They shouldn't know he had developed certain... disorders. Actually, he didn't know anyone from the war who didn't acquire any. The survivors of Charlie Company, broken heroes, and mentally unstable, if not reaching the deranged limit.
However, their doings felt tiny beside the Ghost Wolves elite unit. Every operation they stepped to, ended with a flawless sweep, stained by just bruises. Those red high numbers and those burly and nearly undefeatable cqc fat soldiers didn't mean hard times to them.
Not to mention the soviet's elite akimbo pistol unit, with their inhuman reactions.
Mark's life and mind twisted, Miami's paradise looking from afar seemed like the best choice. The peaceful other half of Hawaii, while in the isles, resorts made military outposts, heat boiling blood instead of skin, and being a military engineer.
When he began his studies, it never crossed his mind he would end up working with weapons and high-end vehicles. Gunpowder sure's interesting for the keen eye, and his country needed him just for that.
"Failure is not an option, private! We need the equipment ASAP!"
His twenty-three octobers didn't say much on paper, yet the marks on his face did tell more than a number. Though, it didn't help when looking for calm jobs, with prejudice often as an obstacle.
He didn't need the money anyway. His military payment filled his expectations, even with being on the losing side. Services rendered on each wound he had.
Mark's search finished early, as a middle-aged man hired him, owner of a convenience store two blocks from his home. Like everyone else, the man's eyes firstly focused on the scar over the former soldier's cheek, but barely said anything, humming a song on the radio and reading the newspaper.
Minutes later the old man minded Mark again, as he got back with some groceries in his hands.
"You okay, lad?" The man lowered his read, and raised an eyebrow, after Mark stared at the counter for a while.
Mark pointed to the entrance door, where an employee search's sign hung. Right what he looked for.
"Oh, you're coming for the spot. Okay, let's see. Hm..." The man examined him carefully, then shook his head. "You look innocent. Not like those three idiots that came before you."
Mark blinked twice, not quite following the comment. Any adjective could be next to his name, except that one. Perhaps his unchanged military square "good guy" cut had been finally useful.
"What 's your name? I'm not looking for mute people, kid."
The former soldier hid a teensy curve on his lips. Such a nickname, leftover from his former squadmates.
"Mark." He forced himself to talk, and his voice almost squeaked.
"That's it? Don't you have anything else to say?" Mike's forehead wrinkled, his voice booming enough to resemble a drill sergeant.
The boy chose to shake his head, and kept eye contact steadily.
"Okay, 'just Mark', I'll be waiting for you at half past seven in the morning, if you really want the job."
Mark relaxed his shoulders and nodded. He was about to leave through the door with the little bell, but stopped as it tinkled.
"Sir." He stated briefly in farewell, with a firm tone.
"Just call me Mike, okay?" The man smirked, glancing at his newspaper again. "Now go, you drive away the peeps standing there."
The former soldier stepped out and headed hastily for the beach, not far from the store.
A promise he made himself in Kulani, just to observe the ocean landscape with no fear of a stray bullet suddenly piercing his skull.
Up in the sky, the moon's silver light illuminated the sea and shore, making shadows of the palms, the abandoned lifeguard sheds and the lone walker over the sand.
Close to the waves, Mark sat right before the shoreline, listening to the sea come and go, while some police siren in the distance interrupted the sound of total peace. It didn't bother him anyway.
He kept vibing to his own brain made music, just for him to hear. The waves, the rustling palm trees, swaying and dancing along the night breeze, and the big city behind that never slept under the high neon.
His job in the army meant to be never involved with shots fired, blood spill and such close encounters with Russians, yet the three revolved his mind, hazy memories disturbing his comfort.
After a couple of hours, he stood up and walked home. Miami sure could be as hot as Hawaii, even in the spring.
Being so late alone at night, Mark considered having a safer way to move around. It had been long since he was afraid of the dark and the dangers coming out with it, with no red signs on their clothing.
This time, anyway, he had to deal with it.
The colorful lights of the nightclubs dimly brightened his path, in addition to women of some modest night work, and a couple of low-lifes, surely hiding weapons inside their huge sweatshirts, ready for action if a business opportunity came by,
Mark went on subtle mode while darting across the street. A skill he acquired in training.
Well, now he didn't have the green jungle as deep cover, but the darkness and the beats from the loud music nearby helped a lot with the blend.
As he rapidly turned around a corner, he saw many men dressed in white suits and aquamarine shirts, standing outside a hotel building, with several blue neon signs. They likely had driven away the possible crowd, as none but them were there.
Mark didn't know who they were and didn't intend to find out. He passed by the parallel sidewalk and got home as fast as he could.
On the second floor, his breaths finally lowered to a normal, though when pocketing for his keys, he remembered why he'd gone to the store in the first place: A couple of eggs and some bacon for breakfast tomorrow.
He just snorted in annoyance, looking at his hand only grabbing mere bread.
The next day, after having a morning meal at a nearby diner, the former soldier walked to the store. Mike was waiting for him, arms crossed, next to the door still with the "Closed" sign.
"I thought you wouldn't get here. I've scared many kids like you throughout my life."
Mark curved his lips slightly and shook his head, following the old man into the store. There, Mike explained the clerk's job, showed him the prices, noted in a long list under the counter, and the biggest warning.
"If I notice my store's missing something," The old man's index was up, vibrating on nearly every emphasized word. "even the tiniest goody, I'm going to hunt you down until you pay for it, you hear?"
After a month of watching over, Mike eventually recognized Mark performed decently for a nearly mute person, and the only stuff the latter would take were a few cigarettes and the occasional cold drink on summer days.
Years later, Mark got better at tending, but his wish to speak kept reserved under an iron will. Not that the clients were disturbed, as long as he said the price out loud with no need to write it on a paper.
Three day shifts, followed by three night shifts to end with a day off. Mike hadn't hired anyone else, trust coming with time, but never talked money terms with him, outside of his payment.
Need-to-know basis applied.
In between the many months, Mike invited him several times to his home and his beloved trophy, a boat he named "Iron Maggie", which he loved as much as a daughter. Something related to the great work someone named Thatcher made on Britain, yet Mark, even having the blood, didn't care much about.
The young vet took kindly to every hang out, as the old man told many stories about his military life. Sometimes they repeated, changing tiny bits, with Mark's polite silence as response, listening.
If he considered his boss a friend, the possible conclusion was having two friends at the moment. From a blatant zero since his arrival to Miami.
On a calm April early morning, a sudden yelp resounded in Mark's apartment. The lone man living there let out many rapid breaths, before a deep one calmed his lungs. Throwing away his covers, he sat on his bed, his eyes centering on his bedside clock, marking half past five in red numbers.
The daylight timidly peeked through the windows, but the clouds still didn't move, rejecting the end of the night.
Breath rate controlled, next was his heartbeat. As his cardiac muscle was out of his control, with staying still hardly working on its own, he stood up to get a glass of water from the sink. The usual fix to his nightmare problem.
Hustle driving away any sleepy vibes, he made his way to the free area of his apartment, where it was supposed to be his living room.
Grunts and claps. A series of push-ups and various other exercises, to release part of the energy stored within his chest. Habit kept from the jungle, and even more so for being a healthy way to swarm himself with the sweet feeling of dopamine.
Mark didn't overwork though, as his body looked slim, but strong enough to carry heavy goods at Mike's store.
After cooling down for a few minutes, he took a quick shower. His two noticeable scars, the large downed line on his right cheek, the curve on his left upper arm, and the little circles on his abdomen, always made him take a little longer inside, like a second or two.
His wardrobe hadn't been renewed for awhile now, with nothing to choose from. Weeks after his arrival, he rambled to many clothing stores, to get himself other stuff than military or green camouflage stuff.
He came out of the store with four identical outfits, jacket, pants and shirt, the single variation being its colors. At least he had taken advantage of the 2x1 in the first pair. He bought four pairs of sneakers as well, either black, white or both.
That ritual repeated itself once a year, though the last one happened ten months ago.
As his clothes found an acceptable fashion combination, he went to the kitchen and looked for the milk carton, the bag of cereal and the bowl. The ideal breakfast for a lazy loner like him.
He returned to his bedroom, turned on the television in front of his bed, and sat down on the carpet below.
"...Investigations of the events of the past April 3th at the Brickell Station, where approximately eleven people were found murdered in cold blood. As deep as our sources informed, such doing could point to a serial killer on the run, though law enforcement declared a racist outrage... as the identified bodies belonged to Russians..."
Mark chewed, thinking. Normally, they would already have a suspect if the dead were all Russians, but apparently the murderer had worked with such quickness and efficiency, that he... or she didn't leave any trace.
How did a random racist manage to do that? Huh.
Looking at the screen again, the camera focused on the female reporter and a green-eyed blond man, with a dark suit.
"Heather Chambers, FBC News. Detective, what can you say...?"
"We can't assure anything until we find more leads. That's all." The blond man dismissed the camera instantly and walked to one of his fellows with the "MPD" cap, and both entered the crime scene again, inside the metro.
The camera turned to the reporter again.
"Rumors of an extremist movement have started to roam the streets of Miami. Not having yet clarified the events of April 2nd, in which a Russian themed bar on 139th Street was attacked in a similar way..."
The former soldier swallowed. Two days in a row, two strikes on two different sides of the city. It wasn't a one-man job, that he could assure.
Surely his friend Jordan had information up to date, as he was also a member of the police force. That side of the story would be interesting to hear, like most of the situations that had happened to him throughout his career as a detective, with his long journey from Texas to Miami. Of course, when filing papers was not considered.
Moreover, he was way easier to talk to than his colleague Pardo, the one appearing on television, with the apathetic dismiss.
Mark got up, finished the milk in the bowl with a large gulp, left it by the sink, on top of the plate he had used last night.
A couple of hours remaining free, he left his blue jacket hanging on the chair in his kitchen, as the other kept flipped over the dining table, and returned to his bed.
His head slowly sank in the mattress' softness, to the point he nearly dozed off in record time, but his brain warned with a brief electric shock to the rest of his body. On his days off he used to wake up and go back to sleep, but this one wasn't.
Grunting, he sat up and stared at his little clock. 6:10 am.
His television got turned off, as Mark didn't need a reminder of how unsafe Miami was. As a seldom night owl, his eye rings knew that already.
Better yet, he decided to spend the little free time he had left by running a little electronic experiment.
Since he scarcely had visitors, next to his exercise zone, he had a small clandestine workshop instead of the classic sofa, which was discarded in a corner. His neighbors often entrusted him with minimal jobs, with payment of course. Extra money was always welcome.
As long as he didn't burn down the building, everything would be okay.
A working phone was at reach, but he rarely needed it, as the only ones who'd call him were his family, landlady, Jordan or Mike. He kept it anyways, because once in a while, hearing his mother's voice was more than enough to ease his troubled mind.
Two days ago, a close neighbor gave him a broken NES, and he had barely made any progress. However, this little device was nothing compared to explosives and antipersonnel mines.
He finished in twenty minutes, and went out to knock on two doors to his right, near the stairs.
"Do you know what time it is, Mark?" the slightly older woman yawned, wearing a nurse's uniform. "Oh, the NES. My son will finally stop pestering me. Thank you."
Mark handed her the device, and stood there, waiting for his pay.
"I'll have the rest for tomorrow, I promise." She gave him a five-dollar bill from her breast pocket. "Harold still can't find a job because of… ethnic preference. You know how it is."
"Good luck." Mark gave her an understanding nod.
"Likewise. Have a nice day." The woman replied, before closing the door.
Having brought his keys, his lighter, the pin with his name and his wallet, Mark considered he had enough to go out for the day.
His BMW waited for him outside.
No big deal compared with the sudden swarm of sports cars in South Beach, like an Acado GT or a Porsche, but it allowed him to move around safely through the night, when insomnia hit randomly, or when he made the happy mistake of drinking coffee before getting to bed.
Dawn still lingered in the sky, colors degrading upon a beauty combination. A visual symphony before sunrise. The store didn't open that early, so he chose to take a brief drive around town.
The neon signs of the beachside pubs and hotels were already flickering, giving way from the sweet and silent nightlife to the bitter and active daylife. Before the last light went off, Mark parked under a palm tree, watching the tip of the sun rise on the horizon.
Perhaps, after those hazy memories in the jungle inferno, he had managed to restart his life. In paradise on earth, Miami.
However, this city was far from getting calm for the young veteran, with the heat just starting.
After all, in April of 1989, many stories began.
diveus - Relayed / Song helping through writing.