Waiting For My Real Life To Begin
Artemis Crock sat at the corner booth of the Hello Muffin café, the table in front of her covered with a combination of spreadsheets, ledgers, and business journals. The café was strategically located between the main entrance of Wayne Towers on 33rd Ave and the multitude of elevator banks that led to the different businesses and companies that resided above.
This café was a favorite among the many people that called Wayne Towers home for eight to ten hours a day, but at the moment was fairly deserted, a not so surprising fact considering it was 4:42 a.m. Anytime now she expected to hear sounds emanating from the kitchen announcing the arrival of the owner that created such delicious treats that it actually made coming to work something to look forward to. She and the sandy haired owner had exchanged hellos and pleasantries a few times, but had never really had the chance to sit down and formally introduce themselves.
In all honesty meeting people had not been high on her list of priorities once she had established herself in Gotham. The recruiter who had brought her to the financial giant her first day had warned her that once she stepped foot into that hallowed building, she'd hit the ground running and never stop. Truer words have not been spoken. It was fortunate that most people wouldn't have mistaken her for a people person to begin with. That's not who she was, that's not what she was hired to do, and as the saying goes you get what you pay for.
The isolation suited her fine thanks to the stack of paperwork that rested before her. There was no easing in period, reports and deadlines were due on time without flexibility or wiggle room. When the higher ups needed something, they needed it yesterday, and as the low woman on the totem pole that meant late nights and very early mornings. The café was the perfect spot to finish up and fine tune the reports due at 9:00 am sharp. No one would arrive in the café for another hour or so, and even if they did, the mountain of paperwork in front of her should have burned like a neon sign screaming Get lost, I'm busy to anyone foolish enough to try and drop by uninvited to begin some inane small talk with the attractive blonde. Well almost anyone.
From behind her laptop stacked upon three large international business law books, she could smell the rich aroma of the steaming coffee placed in front of her. She sighed angrily and ignored the gesture once again. She had only been in Gotham less than four weeks and she'd already found herself a stalker, just my freaking luck, she cursed.
The browser was currently open to the financial section of the Wall Street Journal which Artemis dove head first into, praying that her intruder would finally take the hint, the same hope she had held out for the last six business days.
"Ahem," the voice in front of her announced, clearing his throat.
Artemis rolled her eyes and continued reading, using the laptop screen as a shield to warn of the annoying trespasser, but unfortunately this action only fueled his resolve.
Wally West sat patiently with his hands folded, every few seconds pushing the delicious Starbucks blend closer and closer to her. To his side rested the mailbag he carried, waiting for the moment he would delve into the bowels of Wayne Tower and pick up the daily load that he would cheerfully deliver to parts of the building.
A second attempt at getting the blonde's attention seemed to have failed once again, when a voice finally spoke out from behind the laptop.
"I have told you as politely as I can that I don't like coffee and even if I did I can get my own."
"She speaks," Wally answered cheerfully.
"Yes, she does," Artemis growled, angrily closing the lid of her laptop and glaring at the smiling redhead sitting across from her, "and once again I'm asking you as nice as I can to leave."
"No problem beautiful," he smiled, "All you have to do is tell me your name, and I'm gone like the wind."
"Wally?" he answered genially, hoping that the angry blond might actually remember his name this time.
"Whatever…" she dismissed. "I speak five different languages, how many more ways can I say I'm not interested and leave me the hell alone."
"Uh, the English one's pretty crystal, but sometimes things get lost in translation." he smiled, straitening the collar of the worn out lab coat he wore around his faded Beatles t-shirt, trying but failing miserably at the hipster ironic look he attempted to cultivate.
You're a freaking mailman she cursed to herself, Be a mailman. She felt sorry for anyone who'd fall for the lame guise he donned, but even more so for the poor soul who he'd force himself into a conversation with that would never end, but as an afterthought she realized, better you than me.
"I understand," he said plainly, "the coffee's a non-starter." He rubbed his chin as his eyebrows rose, "How about tomorrow I bring some tea, maybe something Japanese, you know a little closer to home. Do you like Gyokuro?"
"I'm half Vietnamese moron, but I'm sure all us Asians look alike to you."
"Well actually the blonde hair…."
Finally she snapped, no longer trying able hide her disdain "For the love of God!" she yelled. "Leave me the hell alone, I've got work to do and a deadline to keep. Now buzz off!"
The red head smiled and slowly rose from the booth. "I'm growing on you Blondie, I can tell. I'm gonna get that name, trust me."
Wally looked down at his watch and winced. "Wow it's almost six, mailroom's about to open, I gotta get my move and my groove on. See ya around beautiful, remember tea's on me tomorrow," and he strolled out of the cafe with not a care in the world.
Artemis huffed pinching the bridge of her nose in frustration, until she realized the time. "Shit!" she yelled, diving back into Asian market index, worried that once again she would be fighting her deadline up until the very last minute. The next time she saw the freckled geek, she was going to beat him to death with his own mailbag.
The rest of the day was a blur of meetings and lectures. Artemis was a fast leaner, she had to be growing up the way she did, but the day had taken its toll. She shut down her lap top, placing it inside the oversized Oakley Icon military backpack she carried. It wasn't the most feminine accessory she owned, but it got the job done.
She rose from her cubicle as the cleaning crew around her made quick work of the community office area she worked in. Like all things Wayne' related, the crew was fast and meticulous, the crowded bull pen looking brand spanking new by the time they moved on to the next floor.
Artemis walked out the main exit, depositing her on the corner of 33rd and Westmoreland. Even at this hour the city was teaming with energy, the streets around her bumper to bumper. She could easily have afforded a cab, but she always preferred to walk, wanting to get a better feel for her new surroundings.
During her orientation week, the team leader in charge of new hires had already handed out a list of shopping and dining choices, parks and entertainment venues, but most importantly he went in extreme and thorough detail of parts of the city that not only transplants, but even lifelong Gothamites should avoid, the same parts of town Artemis intentionally made her way toward.
The steam escaping the manhole cover obscured her view of the alleyway, but Artemis knew exactly what lay behind it. She had heard the screams, the pleas, the sounds of violence. Star City wasn't the sprawling metropolis that was Gotham, but no matter how big or small a city, the criminal element always remained same, no one knew this better than her.
From the corner of the building, Artemis craned her neck carefully to see the young prostitute lying on the ground twenty yards ahead, the corner of her lip bleeding. The man standing threateningly above her spoke in a thick Russian accent, randomly changing languages as his anger level rose. Eastern Bloc dialects were not her specialty but even without a rudimentary knowledge of the vocabulary, she could easily understand the conversation.
From what she could piece together, the young prostitute's infant daughter was ill and in need of her mother's care, but the young Russian had not earned her required quota for the night and her handler was not pleased, which he made crystal clear when he struck her to the ground and assaulted her repeatedly.
"It will be hard to care for your daughter if you're dead," he sneered rolling his r's "There are a thousand more just like you begging to escape mother Russia for this god forsaken Western lifestyle. Now clean yourself up and get back on the streets…Now!" he demanded.
The young girl sobbed silently, not wanting to give her handler the satisfaction. She thought of her infant, fighting off the severe flu virus that was spreading across the city, being cared for by her drug addicted neighbor who was just as likely to pass out as she was to come to the child's aid. She hesitated, desperately trying to weigh her options, hoping that the animal above her had some tiny shred of decency. When he grabbed her by the neck and drug her to her feet with his fist cocked firmly in place, she realized he didn't.
As the pimp swung back, the sound of a metal can clanging off the concrete echoed throughout the alleyway. He dropped the prostitute back to the ground and wheeled around to look at the intruder. His hand rested on his pistol, preparing to take it out of its holster when the arrow sliced through his palm, lodging it into the old brick wall behind him. Three more followed, two in the thighs and one more in his shooting hand for good measure.
"Идти (Go)" the archer ordered as the girl jumped to her feet and raced away from the scene.
The man howled in pain until a calloused hand grabbed his cheeks, squeezing them together and silencing him, her other hand holding a blade to his jugular.
"Vhat do you want?" he pleaded.
The archer never replied, and the sounds of her assaults and his wails of agony reverberated down the backstreet, ultimately drowned out by the unyielding Gotham traffic. As he rested on the ground, fighting to stay conscious, a steel toed boot smashed into his mouth, ensuring that his days of solid food would be at an end for the next few months. She reached down, pulling out the razor tipped arrows from the unconscious pimp's body, wiping them down and disassembling the crossbow, before putting them both back into her pack and leaving the man bloody and beaten. Her message had been delivered this night, much clearer than if actually spoken. She knew in her heart that asshole would think twice about touching one of his girls like that again, and if he did, he'd spend the next few weeks nervously looking over his shoulder until Artemis found him again. She continued on her path, a small smile on her face, content on taking the dark, dangerous route home, hoping she'd come across more criminals in need guidance and rehabilitation.
Sixteen stories above, crouched carefully on the building's rooftop, a figure in black packed away his thermal scopes and opened his communicator, sending of a coded message to its intended recipients. The package is in the open, and it's as good as advertised.