Shade of the Night
by Andrew Wilson and Brad Patten


"You little punk! Where is the rest of it? You had better come up with something quick or you gunna pay with some blood!"

The intense yelling could be heard clearly through the walls and into the streets. Yelling like this was fairly common among this neighborhood and it wasn't at all uncommon to see the results of some drug deal turned sour. Kids wandered around without clothes or proper nutrition, abused wives, who think that marriages are just that way, dead-beat dads who want the pleasure, but not the responsibility.

Tonight would have a different twist to it though, because Jake knew this lady's house and knew the kids that lived there. Dominga has been trying to get off of drugs and hold down a decent job. She was finding out that it's easier to get involved in drugs than it was to get away from it. Her two boys were the two things that had been giving her enough motivation to change, but the going hadn't been an easy one, her husband had been killed, leaving her to try and raise the kids on a slim salary.

Jake had taken it upon himself to keep an eye on the house when she was working. Her apartment complex was a well-known haven for drugs, prostitutes and other lowlifes and the children, though they were usually pretty good, were like all children a bit on the curious side. Jake knew that being curious in this part of town wasn't a good thing and it was a great way to get yourself killed. Jake walked by the front of the apartment complex, glancing up towards the boarded up windows of the boy's apartment. The lights were on, which probably meant they were home. There were some hookers hanging around the front trying to pick up on anyone that was passing by. On the inside of the lobby you could see the pimp making deals and slapping one of the girls around and chasing off another desperate drug addict. The pimp seemed to have a small entourage around him, all of them were carrying weapons in plain site. Jakes strolled up the stairs towards the lobby, stepping over a couple of bodies lying, passed out on the stairs.

"Hey good looking! Want some action?" cried a blond, who was barely old enough to buy cigarettes let alone smoke them.

"Thanks, but no. Why don't you go home?" He didn't want to care about her, but his own girl would have been about the same age had she lived.

"Fuck off old man! I do as I please," she spat out.

Again, everyone makes choices, some good, and some bad. It's when those choices affect others that it needs to be changed. "Go home, this isn't for you. Just GO home!" Jake said pleadingly, noticing the one-fingered gesture she was quickly extending his way and the laughter coming from the other girls.

As he entered the lobby the entourage had moved around and those in attendance turned to face him. He quickly scanned the area taking note of the broken mail boxes, bullet holes in the wall and the copious amounts of graffiti that covered the walls, which gave the lobby more of a war zone appearance than a place where people lived. He could see three punks guarding the stairs going up to Dominga's apartment. The door to the apartment had been kicked in and he could see Orlando, the youngest of the two boys, being held by two more thugs while a third, a larger one, was pulling a belt from around his waist in obvious preparation to begin administering a beating to the small boy.

"I warned you. Now you are going to pay little one. Don't worry about being saved by your mama, cause she is dead! You are mine and you will do as I say!" He screamed as he began to whip Orlando across the body tiny exposed back. WHACK...WHACK.

Jake felt the familiar point of a gun being shoved into the small of his back. "I think you have business elsewhere don't you?"

Glancing over his shoulder he could see the pimp that had been there earlier holding the gun on him. He could also see behind his assailant, entering through the rear door to the lobby, three more brutes with guns. "Yes, I probably do," was all Jake said, he could feel the pull of the mask that rested in his inner pocket of his trenchcoat.

He heard the front door swing open and heard the young blonde scream "Beat his ass Miguel! He was pushing me around trying to get a free ride!" Obviously lying to provoke Miguel.

"Is this true my friend?" Not waiting for a reply Miguel moved the pistol from the small of Jakes back up to the back of his head. "I think that you owe the lady an apology and I think that you should pay her for wasting her time," Miguel said laughing and nodding to his enforcers who laughed in response.

WHACK...WHACK. The belt slammed down again and he could hear Orlando screaming for help.

Miguel not getting the response quickly enough pushed the gun forward while yelling "I am talking to you mother fucker!"

The mask could not longer be resisted. These men had been deemed worthy of death. With one hand he pulled the mask and quickly spun towards his attacker while grabbing the pistol with his other hand. BLAM! He felt the force of the bullet graze the side of his head as he gave the pistol a sharp twist hearing the sharp crack of bone as he yanked the gun from Miguel's hand. Miguel doubled over holding his hand and started to scream in pain. Out of the corner of his eye he could see the others quickly bringing their weapons to bear. In one fluid motion Shade brought the muzzle of his newly acquired pistol to rest against the head of Miguel and pulled the trigger, sending gore splattering across the floor, as the back of his head exploded. His other hand brought his modified MP-5, which had been holstered tightly under his trenchcoat, to send a shower of bullets into the three that were in front of him and to those that guarded the stairs to his side. The fight had ended before it had begun as six bodies crumpled to the floor to join Miguel's body in death.

The three at the top of the stairs had taken notice of what had just transpired and one ran into the empty apartment, the other letting go of the boy and putting his hands up crying, "Mother Mary it's HIM!"

The belt had stopped. Orlando's punisher had his eyes focussed on the scene in front of him, there was a man wearing a large trenchcoat and two smoking weapons, his face covered by a skull faced mask with glowing green eyes. The man said nothing as he stepped over the bodies and proceeded to climb the steps that led to him. He could feel the fear mounting within him as the mysterious man raised the gun and aimed it at him. He didn't dare reach for his own weapon, he knew that this mysterious man would drop him dead if he tried. He decided his only option was to make a run for it. He dove into the kid's apartment hot on the heels off of Eddie. He heard a burst of gunfire and looked back to see Jed fall through the door, his body bullet riddled. Eddie was struggling to get the window to the fire escape open and he knew there wasn't much time before the skull faced killer was going to come into the one room apartment. He placed a pistol in a table in the room and knelt beside it, raising his hands, as Shade walked into the room, his green eyes accenting the shape of the skull mask in the dark.

"Ok...Ok...you are the man! What do you want? The kid owed me some money. He is ok. I just wanted to scare him a bit. I give up," he mumbled as he knelt, hoping for a moment of hesitation that would give him a chance for an opening to shoot this masked man. The room was dark and it might give him some cover from this freak.

Silence was all that greeted him. The man raised his gun and fired a burst. Instinctively, he rolled to the side when he saw Eddy's body drop to the floor, dropping the gun that he held in his hand. The masked man was now looking again at him, gun raised when he paused suddenly, looking at something through the window where Eddie had tried to escape.

Staring back at him was a dark shape with glowing green eyes. They matched the intensity as the window exploded in a shower of glass and wood.

Tween floated in through the window, his charge safely up on the roof when the shooting started. There was a green eyed skull faced man in a trench coat with two handguns. The assassin had already killed one person in the room and one Tween could see just outside the door. Before he could react, the Skull faced monster fired several shots, there was a slight sting from each as the bullets impacted on Tween's bio shields. The metal of the shells had spread out, and fallen to the ground.

The man who had been trying to escape the skull faced creature, screamed as two bullets from the second gun Shade held found their mark.

The two boys in stood in the doorway, looking on as the new figure all in metallic black began to glow in a emerald green glow.

"That was not necessary!" Tween said threateningly as he raised his hands up before him.

Off in the distance, sirens could be heard. Tween said to Shade, "Dealing with you will take too much time, and I can't afford to be seen here. Consider this a warning, there are worse things than pimps and drug dealers." The electrical energy dissipated from around Tween's hands, as he turned his back on Shade and exited the destroyed window.

******

Shade stood staring out the window for a minute at the departing figure. Wondering if this was another enforcer that some kingpin had paid to come after him. But the figure hadn't attacked and he had brought in Dominga obviously shaken but unharmed. Though the being was obviously humanoid it wasn't something that Shade had ever seen. Shade would have to keep an eye out for him, do a little homework and see if there are any records on this super. If there was going to be a future encounter, Shade wanted to be prepared...
 

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