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A Devil to Watch Over You
by John "Myth" Kennedy

The alley shone in the street lamps from the puddles on the ground. Pieces of newspaper lay soaked by the wall, and broken glass and chipped cement filled the corners where they had fallen over the years.  Few walked down this alley if they needed to, or they were looking for someplace to hide.  For Lisa Halloway, this lane seemed an unlikely refuge as she ran.

Tripping over a trash can, Lisa fell to the ground harshly, skinning her knee.  As she struggled to stand up she knocked over more trash cans, making a cacophony of noise that echoed off the old brick walls. Turning around, she saw them gather at the opening of the alleyway.  Three men dressed in filthy jeans and work coats walked slowly towards her, the menace clear in their eyes.

Lisa continued running from them, trying to find some way out of the alley.  Her hopes were dashed when she rounded a corner and found a large wooden fence dividing the alley in half.  She pried at the boards; they were too strong.  She considered climbing over but the fence was too high and there was nothing to stand on.  Her flesh began to crawl as she realized she was trapped and the staccato tapping of work boots followed her around the corner.

The three men were grimy and covered in soot.  From the thick jeans and uniformed attire they appeared to be factory workers.  On the left was a dark haired man who had an old ball cap on his head with the stitching on the emblem wearing away.  To the right was man with bright red hair with a thick, curly beard.  He made kissing gestures with his lips as he walked towards her, his hands popping his knuckles as he walked.

The man in the middle was the tallest of the three, his height towering over the others by a foot.  .  To Lisa, he appeared as the creepiest one of them all. His shaved head bore a nasty scar on the left side and he had a strange crescent branded on his left hand. His face appeared calm, and his eyes were narrowed as if he felt no fear or trepidation about pursuing her.

Flinging her purse at them, Lisa backed up against the fence.  “Take it!  It’s yours!  I won’t tell the cops, I swear!  Just leave me alone!”

“Oh, we’re going to take it alright,” muttered the man with the beard.  He picked up the purse and began scrounging through it, tossing make up and random papers on the ground.

“There’s over fifteen dollars in there,” said Lisa as her back straightened against the wall.  “It’s all yours!  Just get out of here!”

The man with the scar glared at her for a while.  Lisa could hear her heart beating in her chest as he narrowed his eyes on her.  Something about his eyes appeared inhuman to her.  The man with the baseball cap took a step forward but was immediately flung back by the tall man almost effortlessly.
As the man with the cap started to protest, the tall man spoke in a deep baritone that echoed throughout the alley.  “Shut it, you lugs.  I saw her first, and I get to go first.”

The man with the beard backed away, his hand still rummaging through her purse.  “Whatever you say, Pollux.”

As Pollux stepped closer Lisa leaned hard into the fence, hoping it would give way.  As he got closer to her, she stared up into his eyes.  His eyes seemed to glow in the dark light, almost appearing like cat’s eyes reflecting the moonlight. 

It was then that something else drew her attention.  The shadow around the fire escape overhead seemed to move on its own.  Like a blur, it moved down the metal steps and leapt down into the alley.

Landing without a sound, the figure grabbed the bearded man and slammed his head into the wall with a deafening crunch. Before he could recover, the figure slammed his fists into the man several times, using he wall to keep him from moving.  After delivering a fierce haymaker move, the bearded man slumped over with a gurgling noise as his teeth and blood oozed from his mouth.

“Hey,” shouted the man with the cap.  “Get him!”

The figure moved to intercept the man with the hat, delivering a swift kick to the man’s pelvis forcing the breath out of him.  Grabbing the man by the throat, the figure swung him over his leg and forced him onto the ground.  With two quick kicks to the jaw, the man was out cold.

Lisa watched the man called Pollux breathe in deeply before letting out a loud shout that hurt her ears.  Stepping forward slowly, veins seemed to pop in his neck as he turned his attention away from her and onto the figure. He seemed larger than life now, and she saw his own clothing was starting to tear around his shoulders.

“I dunno who you think you are, you little punk,” said Pollux.  “But I’ma gonna crush you like a fly.”  He then turned back towards Lisa, giving her a wink. “Then I’m gonna play with you!”

“Not likely,” said the figure.  Stepping forward into the light revealed a figure in a black pinstripe suit His face hidden under a dark fedora.  His jacket was open, revealing a black shirt with a red tie. A single silver tie tack glinted in the lamp light. 

With a shout Pollux ran forward, his heavy boots thudding on the ground. He tried to tackle the figure but he deftly moved out of the way.  Pollux started swinging at him, but the figure was too fast.  With another roar, Pollux tried again to hit him but smashed his fist into the wall, breaking red bricks into dust.

The figure then started swinging quickly into Pollux’s gut.  They were light jabs at first which seemed to irritate the giant. Pollux continued swinging wildly but began to slow down, his breath becoming ragged and his movements even wilder.  Before long he had fallen to his knees, his large body struggling to catch his breath.

Pollux looked up one final time in order to see the figure’s foot smashing into his face.  With a groan the giant rolled over to the ground.  The figure stood over him for a moment before turning his attention towards Lisa. She felt a shiver go down her spine.  One thought t ran through her head, “Did I trade one problem for another?”

The figure moved to the side and gestured down the alleyway.  Not wasting a moment, she moved past the figure, keeping her eyes on him at all times.  Stopping only to pick up her purse and a couple of items that dropped, she ran out of the alley and back onto the streets screaming for help.
Pollux tried to focus his eyes but all he could see was the figure standing over him.  As he struggled to get up the figure pulled a pistol from his coat, clicking the hammer back loudly as he pressed the barrel against Pollux’s head.  Pollux struggled to move but his muscles were stiff and heavy.  He tried to move his fingers to his coat pocket but the figure pressed in deeper with the pistol, forcing him to stop.

Reaching into Pollux’s coat, he pulled out a vial.  Holding it up to the lamp light, the vial had a soft blue chemical inside of it.  Satisfied with what he found, he turned his head slowly towards Pollux and tilted back his hat, letting the light reveal his face.  Pollux was horrified at what he saw.

The figure’s face was a crimson mask with lips curled back in a horrific grin.  Two short horns jutted forth from his forehead, and his eyes glistened in the light. As Pollux struggled to move he felt a fear in him that he had never known before.  The figure started laughing as Pollux’s face changed to horror.

“Tell me where you found this vial, and I’ll consider letting you go,” said the figure cryptically as he grinned the barrel of the pistol into Pollux’s head.

“C’mon, man, just let me go!  I’ll tell you anything!”

“How ironic,” said the masked man?  “You will tell me everything, and do you know why?”

Pollux shook his head back and forth as the masked figure cackled again, his laughter echoing out into the city of Angleville.  Leaning closer to Pollux with breath that reeked of garlic and brimstone, Pollux could see pale green eyes gazing into his.

“Because I am the Night Devil, and you are mine!”

Looking down from a nearby rooftop, Night Devil watched as the police arrested the criminals in the alley.  He had left them bundled together with cord, and the goliath was still shrieking hysterically. Biting back a laugh as the police struggled to find a way to transport the group back to the station house, he turned his attention away from the scene and out over the city.

Angleville was his home. He lived here, worked here, and had planned to have a future in the “City of Dreams.”  But like all other cities, Angleville had problems. Unlike other cities, it had larger problems when it came to crime.  The new drug that had been hitting the streets saw to that.

Carefully running across the rooftops, he followed the map in his head back to his car.  The thug told the Night Devil the he had gotten the dose across town at a speakeasy that had fallen on hard times, known as the Lanky Dog.  It seemed like the sort of place where one could go to still find illegal vices in this town after Prohibition had been enacted.

Sliding down a fire escape he checked to make sure no one was watching.  He carefully unlocked his car, an old Mitchell Motors sedan with black panels. Mitchell Motors had been bought out after the war, and the remains of its once proud factories dotted Angleville’s skyline.  He preferred their cars, though.  They were reliable and silent, a boon in his line of work.

Once he sat down he pulled off his hat and mask and tucked them in the glove box.  He slid down his suit jacket and pulled a heavy, tattered sleeved, work coat from the back seat.  Once he put it on and messed up his hair a little, he returned to being William Blaine.  Lighting a cigarette to finish the disguise, he started the ignition and pulled out of the alley.

As he drove across the city he checked out the knuckles on his right hand.  The fight with Pollux had taken its toll on him physically even though he had dodged each blow the lummox tried to connect with.  Skin was peeling off his hand and thick bruises ran along his knuckles.  He had worked hard to condition his hands for fighting but since he had taken up the role of the Night Devil he had been pushing his body to the limit.  Even now exhaustion made his eyes burn and his muscles ached as he tried to relax in the car seat. 

He had to see this through, as the thought of this new drug sent a shiver down his spine.  He had played a frustrating game with tracking down the source. The known supplier of the drug had remained anonymous and the few dealers and addicts he had stopped this past week were clueless as to the drug’s source.   Each criminal pointed him in circles.  It took a lot of effort to find out that Pollux was one of the chief enforcers for the man producing it.  Even then, Pollux just knew where he bought and sold the drug from.

Half an hour later he saw the plain brick building off to the side.  It had no sign, just thin glass windows and two large men standing out front keeping watch.  Careful not to slow down he watched them with his peripherals as he drove by.  The guards gave him a casual glance but continued watching the street and talking to each other.  Behind them a large bronze door knocker with a spaniel’s head shone in the lamp light.

He parked several blocks away and donned his suit once more, carefully making his way through the streets.  As he crept around the back of the building he could hear loud jazz music playing and every so often silhouettes of people would dart in front of the windows. He could hear people laughing and shouting over the music.  He continued moving along the back of the building until he saw a backdoor lit by a buzzing yellow light, and the smell of old garbage wafted towards him from the open dumpster nearby.

Taking up position behind the dumpster he checked his pockets carefully.  He had his padded gloves that had heavy lead shot sewn into the knuckles.  They made his fists slower but his punches harder.  As a last resort, his Webley pistol was tucked into a holster inside his coat, its finish dulled black with shoe polish.  He had no qualms about sending the worst scum off to meet their maker, but he preferred leaving behind prisoners, not bodies.

His patience was rewarded when the back door creaked open on a rusty hinge.  From the shadows he saw a portly man in a dirty smock and pants hefting a large trash bag towards the dumpster.  The man was mumbling to himself softly although Night Devil could make out a few words.

“Paulie take out the garbage, Paulie cook the burgers, Paulie stop staring at the guests you’re creeping them out,” muttered the man as he threw the garbage into the dumpster.  “How about Paulie quits this crappy job and goes to work in his own kitchen.  Then I won’t get yelled at by creepy freaks in masks or their strung out associates!”

As Paulie turned around to head back to the kitchen, the Night Devil made his move.  Swiftly running around the dumpster he grabbed Paulie by his shirt and smashed him against the dumpster.  Clamping a hand over his mouth, Night Devil dragged him around the back of the dumpster into the shadows and pressed him against the cold steel panel.

Squeezing hard on the man’s face Night Devil glared into his eyes.  His voice was cold as he saw Paulie get transfixed by his gaze.  The mask helped William with not only keeping his identity but scaring people.

“Tell me who is inside and how I can get there and I’ll let you live!”

“N-no way,” Paulie started shaking as Night Devil removed his hand.  “You want in you gotta check with the bouncers.”  Paulie swallowed loudly as his knees began to give out on him from fear.  “Besides, if yer friends with the guy downstairs you just hafta ask the guys up front and they’ll let you in!”

“Do I look like a friend to your boss?!” Slamming Paulie against the dumpster again, Night Devil had to cover Paulie’s mouth as he started to scream.

“Tell me who is in there and you get to live another night!  Refuse and you get to see what happens when you make a devil angry!”

As he slid his hand away Paulie shrieked in a shrill voice.  “It’s the Claw!  The Claw’s in there, a guest of Tommy the owner!  They’re buying or selling or doing something in the basement I’m not supposed to know about!  That’s all I know, just let me go, please!”

Content with the information he got, Night Devil lifted Paulie off the ground with his strength and glared into his eyes. 

“Does the kitchen lead into the basement?”

“Yeah, it’s got its own stairway down there!”

“Then go!” Tossing Paulie down onto the ground roughly, Night Devil crossed his arms as he gestured with his head away from the building.  “Leave and don’t look back.  Call the cops if you wish, but never return here or we’ll meet again!”

It took a few seconds for the words to sink in but when they did Paulie took off down the street like a blur, occasionally turning his head back towards the Lanky Dog.  Chuckling to himself, Night Devil carefully made his way in the open door.  The kitchen had two people manning a large grill but no one noticed him as he crept along towards the open stairs.

The stairs were dark, but he could not risk turning on the lamp overhead.  The steps were cement and fortunately let out no sound as he slipped down them.  They ended at a sharp turn into an old fruit cellar.  Racks that once held tools had been converted to holding spirits and in the florescent lighting he could see a couple of men sitting around a table.  On one side sat a fat white man who was shoveling food into his mouth with his hands.  To his sides were women in revealing red skirts with elaborate hairdos and heavily made up make up.  On either side of them were guards wearing blue suits with their hands crossed in an intimidating manner.

Across from them sat a man wearing an elaborate dress uniform of sky blue cloth.  Pins and medals adorned his chest and his hands wore crimson gloves with gold stitching down the sides.  His face was hidden behind a mustard yellow hood that covered his face, revealing deep brown eyes and graying eyebrows.  The most elaborate medal adorning his chest had a large crimson crescent set against a gold background, and on his lapels he had gothic eagle pins.  The crescent, Night Devil noticed, seemed similar to the brand that Pollux had on him.

To his left, in a very plain grey suit with a black tie, sat a short man with a dirty white shirt.  In front of him he gripped a black leather briefcase and he was speaking energetically with a high pitched voice.  He made several gestures between the man to his side and towards the briefcase in his hands.

In the background, there appeared to be someone else at the meeting.  Sitting against the back wall was a man in a heavy brown trench coat.  His face was obscured by an oversized hat he wore, but the Night Devil noticed that the man sat perfectly still.  Curiously, he was not wearing any shoes and he kept his head focused on the man in the uniform. 

Flattening himself against the steps, Night Devil focused on trying to hear the meeting and calmed down his heart so that its heavy beating wouldn’t fool his ears.  The voices were echoing off the walls but the sounds of the man eating and the creaking of chairs made it difficult.

“So as I have already explained Mr. Trueblood,” said the man holding the briefcase, “you give us $50,000 now and you get the contents of this briefcase.  You pay us $50,000 in a week and each month after that; you continue to get access to our drug.”

Slamming his fist on the table, Tommy Trueblood wiped his dirty hands on a large cloth napkin on his lap.  “You’re doubling the price now?  Who do you think you are?  What’s wrong with our previous arrangement that you have to put the screws to us?”

The man in the mask glared at the gangster and leaned over to whisper something in his assistant’s ear.  With a large grin, the man with the briefcase slowly slid it off the table and down to his side.

“The old deal is gone, my friend.  With the success of our new drug we’ve found ourselves overflowing with potential buyers.  Everyone up and down the coast knows we’ve got something big here and if you want to keep yourself well supplied with our stuff you should consider watching your tone and showing a little respect.”

Tommy Trueblood nervously patted at his lips while everyone in the room seemed to focus on him.  “You don’t get it though,” Tommy lifted up his wineglass and swished the contents inside. “We barely get by with the amount you give us.  Other dealers and other product are cheaper to move, Mr. Grant.”

“Oh,” muttered Mr. Grant as tapped his fingers on the table.  “Well if you’re no longer interested I’m sure other places would appreciate us.  We’ll leave then.”

As soon as Mr. Grant and the uniformed man stood up Tommy Trueblood nearly dropped his glass on the table as he panicked.  Shaking the glass uncontrollably he set it down on the table and patted his sweating forehead with his napkin.

“Wait!  Please!  Alright, I’ll do it, the deal is good!”

Grinning broadly Mr. Grant sat the briefcase back on the table while the man in the uniform sat back down in his chair.  As he sat down, Night Devil saw a glimmer come off a cavalry saber tucked in at the man’s side.  The man continued to show no emotion as he sat down, his mask keeping his mental state mysterious.

As one of the guards started to place a large carpet bag on the table, Night Devil made his move.  Charging out from the darkness, he landed a solid punch to one guard that sent him sprawling to the ground.  The man with the bag tried to read for his gun but Night Devil lined him up with the gun sight of his Webley and pulled the trigger.  The bullet tore through the air and smashed into the man’s hand between his fingers.  Screaming with pain he dropped his pistol to the floor along with the bag, and Night Devil followed up with a fierce pistol whip to the man’s temple that sent him crumbling to the floor.

Tommy Trueblood tried to bolt for the door but with cat like grace Night Devil hoisted up one of the heavy wooden chairs and sent it spinning end over end into the back of Tommy’s head.  With a loud shout Tommy hit the floor holding the back of his head, his blond hair becoming slick with blood.  Content that Tommy and his men were incapacitated and seeing the two women flee shrieking up the stairs, he turned his attention towards the other group in the room.

Strangely, no one had moved except for Mr. Grant who was now holding the briefcase close to his chest.  The man in the uniform was clapping, his eyebrows rose in an amused expression.  The room was silent except for the sound of his clapping and the faint music upstairs.

“Well done!” said the man in a thick accent Night Devil couldn’t place.  “Well done indeed!  The dinner needed a good show to break up the boredom and you certainly delivered.”

“Yeah, sure it did.” Night Devil cocked back the hammer of his pistol as he aimed it at the uniformed man, who still had not moved from his chair.  “All of you are under arrest.”

“Are we now?”  Standing up quickly, Night Devil kept his pistol trained at the man’s heart.  The man’s hand slid to the hilt of his saber but otherwise he stood still in front of him.

With a deep laugh the man seemed to twist the knob of his saber.  “You have no badge, no police cruisers here to back you up.  How do you plan on arresting me, Night Devil?”

“I take it you’ve heard of me.”

“Oh I have.  Did you really think that all of those dealers stayed in prison?  Did you think I never knew that someone was trying to track me down and was forcing people to reveal where they purchased my drug?  Come now, Night Devil, I thought you knew me better than that.”

“I know plenty about you and about what your dirty drug does, and I’m putting a stop to it right now.”  Taking a few steps forward his eyes glanced around the room, keeping stock of the three people still standing.  “The only thing people have failed to tell me is your name.”

Twisting the knob of his sword again, the man laughed as he took a few steps backwards.  “Why, my simple friend, I am the great thinker of crime!  I am the one who controls this town with an iron grip!  Let my enemies feel fear when they hear my name and let them tremble for I am known as the Claw!”

The Claw let out another laugh as the man in the back of the room stood up rigidly and began to make his way forward.  The large hat fell away to the floor along with the trench coat revealing a man in a bright red signet with orange skin.  His face seemed like it was chiseled and his eyes were completely brown in color, as if he had no irises.  The man had a large bronze disc on the front of his signet, and he moved with a purpose towards the Night Devil.

“Please have fun with my Hollow Man, Devil.”  The Claw quickly made his way towards a large wooden door at the back that Mr. Grant was opening.  “It was a pleasure making your acquaintance even if it was but briefly.”

The Hollow Man continued his relentless march forward, his frame knocking the table to the side effortlessly.  He stepped on the hand of one of the downed guards and with a sickening crunch broke the man’s fingers.  The guard woke up from the shock and immediately rolled over, cradling his now useless limb.

Acting on instinct Night Devil fired a round into the Hollow Man’s knee.  The bullet pierced the skin, leaving an oddly shaped hole inside it, but the Hollow Man showed no emotion.  Firing a second round into the other knee, Night Devil could not believe that the Hollow Man still refused to show any signs of pain or slowing down from the shots.

“Buddy, you should have known when to quit,” said Night Devil as he fired two rounds into the Hollow Man’s head.  The bullets tore into his skull and the Hollow Man fell backwards onto the floor with a loud thud.  Stepping closer, the Night Devil could see two gaping holes that lined up almost symmetrically on his forehead. 

Placing the pistol back in his holster, Night Devil stepped towards Tommy Trueblood.  The gangster was struggling to get back to his feet and was stumbling about as he tried to make his escape.  Grabbing him by the collar, Night Devil lifted him up and slammed him against the wall, causing several bottles of wine and spirits to slide off and break on the ground.

“Who was that man you were trying to make a deal with?  Who is the Claw?”

Tommy looked like he was about to answer when his eyes grew wide and his mouth opened to shout a warning.  Sensing something was wrong Night Devil quickly moved his head to the side, barely avoiding the large orange fist that made contact with Tommy’s face.  The fist smashed Tommy’s face in, blood pouring out from the gaping hole in his head as his body went limp and fell to the floor.

Dodging quickly to the side Night Devil dodged another fierce jab from the Hollow Man.  Despite having four bullets in him he was relentless and Night Devil was tired.  With a mighty heave the Hollow Man punched Night Devil in the stomach, sending him sliding backwards into a nearby wine rack.  Bottles fell around him as the Hollow Man, with one rib broken, slowly walked towards him.
He drew his gun from his holster but it was too late as the Hollow Man slapped it out of his hand and sent it flying across the room.  Night Devil gave his opponent two swift punches to the face, but the Hollow Man’s face felt strange when he hit it.  It gave in a little bit, as if his face was made of some hardened rubber instead of flesh.

Grabbing Night Devil by his shoulders, the Hollow Man flung him across the room and into the dinner table smashing it to pieces.  Night Devil struggled to regain his senses as the Hollow Man picked him up again, this time with his hands around his throat.  The Hollow Man’s fingers were as stiff as steel as they started to crush his throat and Night Devil found himself struggling for air.
Stars filled his vision as he struggled to hit the Hollow Man, but the brute’s grip refused to give.  As the Hollow Man’s plain face stared back into his, he wondered if this was how it would end.  He refused to believe that he would die in some cold basement while villains like the Claw continued to spread misery and decay throughout the city.

Lifting up his feet to the Hollow Man’s chest, Night Devil braced himself and pushed off suddenly.  The Hollow Man’s grip loosened slightly sending him rolling onto the ground, but the Hollow Man stood up again and with his feet stomping the remains of the table into smaller pieces he was on Night Devil again. 

As Night Devil backed up against the far wall he felt his head bump against something metallic.  Turning around, he saw the dull grey finish of the fuse box for the Speakeasy behind him.  Knowing he did not have many options left, he stood his ground defiantly as the Hollow Man raised his hands up into the air.

With a fierce jab the Hollow Man tried to punch Night Devil but as the vigilante ducked to the side instead put his hand through the fuses.  The lights cut out and the Hollow Man struggled to free his arm from the wiring. Electricity arced out into the Hollow Man who seemed un-phased by the damage.  One of the glass fuses exploded from the pressure sending burning glass onto his arm however, and slowly fire began to spread up his arms.

As he backed up against the opposite wall and retried his pistol, Night Devil watched as the Hollow Man struggled with the fire.  Even after he freed his arm the fire spread to the rest of his body.  The Hollow Man waved his arms about but the broken bottles of spirits and wine on the floor created an inferno around him. 

Knowing he did not have a lot of time, Night Devil grabbed the two guards and dragged them to the stairway.  He darted up the stairs with one man over his shoulders and he flung him into the dumpster outside.  The two chefs were staring at him blankly as he returned, and in a raspy voice he shouted at them to leave.  Returning to the basement, he slung the other guard over his shoulders and saw the Hollow Man still walking about, his entire body consumed by the flames.

Rushing up the stairs with the other guard he saw dozens of patrons fleeing outside of the building as smoke detectors went off.  The frightened club goers ran out to their cars, although several stayed to watch the fire begin to consume the club.  The last one barely made it out of the club before the alcohol in the basement exploded, sending a massive plume of smoke and fire out of the stairs and filling the kitchen area.

Tying the two guards together by the dumpster, the Night Devil straightened his hat as he started to make his way away from the scene.  Several people were pointing at him and questioning who he was, and as the sirens made their way down the street he knew he did not want to stay there.  No one would believe him even if he stayed to speak with the police, and it was better that he left.

As he carefully made his way through the neighborhoods and returned to his car, Night Devil angrily punched the seat of his car as he sat down.  The Claw had gotten away, he thought, and the only lead he had; was killed by that strange creature the Claw had working for him.  He had stopped one drug deal but he knew the Claw was still out there and if the Hollow Man was any indication, he was up to something nefarious for the city of Angleville.

Still, as he removed his mask and hat and wiped sweat and soot from his face, he now knew the name of the man behind the new drug craze, and he knew he could beat him.  As he drove away from the Lanky Dog and out into the streets of Angleville he knew that he was just starting, and that the Night Devil would make the streets safe again.

THE END... FOR NOW

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