At the SLANT offices, ace reporter Erica Chase works late on the annual "Vengeance Night' special issue. It's been a bad weekend, followed by a particularly bad Monday—she's been scooped by the mainstream press! She types furiously at first, then more confidently as she gets into the story. Chase is in her element here, and she knows the players involved much better than those hacks over at the Post-Dispatch!
Anyway, who could have seen this coming? Death Vengeance is usually so damn predictable—everyone was sure it'd be either Blackout or Steel Claw this year. But no, this time he's gotta pick on somebody normal! Of course the regular press got there first; I can't be everywhere at once. What do they expect?
Way to whimp out, Chase. "Sunset Hills Man" indeed. He's a killer, just like all of DV's victims. But now the public is going to see him as the victim, so calling him a killer on the front page isn't gonna fly, even if it's 100% true. Just write the damn story.
The residents of this affluent South County suburb were shocked for the second time in as many weeks today when Wayde Moultrie, age 28, was kidnapped from his home in Sunset Hills, Missouri at approximately 9:15 AM. Witnesses to the daylight kidnapping say a customized black SUV drove onto the lawn of the victim's home, and Death Vengeance, along with several members of the mercenary group Mayhem, Incorporated proceeded to surround and enter the house. Only seconds later, they emerged with Moultrie gagged and handcuffed, then returned to the SUV and drove away at high speed.
Earlier this month, residents of Sunset Hills, and the entire city, were outraged after Moultrie received a sentence of five years' probation and 1000 hours of community service following the accidental death of Amanda Portner. Moultrie's vehicle struck and killed miss Porter in Sunset Hills as he drove home, when he took his eyes off the road to open a beer can. Although he had open alcohol in the vehicle, his blood alcohol content was zero, and the judge ruled that mandatory sentencing rules for drunk driving did not apply in Moultrie's case. Moultrie was originally charged with aggravated manslaughter, but pled guilty to a lesser charge of involuntary vehicular manslaughter, resulting in a reduced sentence with no jail time. The Portner family have not yet decided whether to file a civil lawsuit against Moultrie.
If Death Vengeance has his way, they may never get the chance. A message from "Mr. Vengeance" arrived at my office this afternoon, delivered by an arrow fired through my window, of all things. It hit my wall calendar, right on target for February 19th. The paper pinned to it had a photo of Mr. Moultrie on one side, holding today's paper and looking justifiably worried. On the other side was a statement from Death Vengeance. By now, the full statement is all over the web, so I'll just hit the high points here. "Mr. Vengeance" considers Mr. Moultrie's light sentence in the Portner case to be a miscarriage of justice, and he intends to take the law into his own hands to correct this oversight. In the opinion of DV, Mr. Moultrie should get what all child-killers deserve, and on February 19th at 11pm, the night some refer to as "Vengeance Night", this is what he will receive. Mr. Moultrie's death will be webcast on a camera site to be announced at a future time.
If you want to read the full press release, it's on more web sites than I can count, (Google returned half a million hits just hours after it came out) and it's been reproduced in full by several other city papers who don't mind giving free press to murderous psychopaths. But if you want to see my copy, you'll have to stop by the office. It's still stuck to the calendar with a razor-sharp arrow, on the day of February 19th, Vengeance Night.
Deena let herself into the old industrial supply shop on Jefferson Street and checked to make sure she was alone. Lately this had been Darryl's favorite "staging area" for Steel Claw's operations, and it would be the first place ICoMP found if he broke under questioning... she tried not think about it. Her meeting with his associates at the Third Rail hadn't gone any better than she expected. If Deena wanted more help finding out who was framing her, she'd have to go back a bit farther, and find some of Darryl's older contacts. But to do that, she'd have to pack something besides her little toy taser. The denizens of the Coffee House lived in the worst part of town, and they didn't like surprise visitors.
So, Deena needed something from the Safe, where Steel Claw kept a few odd items he'd stolen, from the Second Syndicate, or ICoMP, or Who Knows? She rummaged cautiously through the assorted hand cannons, looking for something deadly, yet concealable, finding plenty of the former, and not so much of the latter. Most of the smaller guns seemed to be on the top shelf, so she got a foot-stool and began searching higher up.
Then she found it—a small box, two inches on a side. "For Deena." It had a ring in it—a diamond engagement ring. Deena suddenly felt very weak, and took a seat on the foot stool. This was it. The reason for their cancelled date last Friday. Darryl had always hated Valentines' Day, so of course, he'd been planning to 'jump the gun' and give her this a day early. On Friday the 13th. Such very, very bad timing, in so many ways.
Deena sat there silently, looking at the ring for a long time. Would he ever get another chance to ask her that question? She wasn't sure if she'd be around to answer him, the way things were going. "I always told you not to fight my battles for me, Darryl, and now that I could really use the help, you're locked up. But you always told me to stay away from vigilantes, and look at me now. Damn, look at both of us."
Deena put the box back on the shelf, and began loading a pistol from the Safe. Time to go back to the Coffee House.
Somewhere in St. Louis—Mary Tower's cell phone rings.
"Mary, this is Darryl Cavanaugh. Sorry to bother you like this, but Deena's phone is turned off—what's up with that? I hope she's okay. And Erica's line is busy for some reason. Whenever you see her, be sure to give her a good swat on the... "
Someone on the other end cuts him off and he says something about a 'flag-wearing feminazi'.
"Tell her I said Hi. Lady Liberty finally decided to let me make a phone call, and like I said, I've had a hard time getting through to anyone. And I can't guarantee I'm not being monitored. I gotta make this quick. They denied bail for me this morning. Define 'flight risk'? Me, apparently. Now for the fun part. All weekend, Alkonost has been pushing for access to me. And Lady Liberty has been pushing back, hard. Now Alkonost is threatening to go over her head, because she thinks I've got information on the Blitzkrieg case. Lady Liberty says I'm 'her suspect' and Alkonost can go get bent. Basically I'm in the middle of the ugliest turf war I've ever seen. My money's on the home team, and Lady Liberty agrees, but if it turns out we're wrong, we think Blitzkrieg should know what's going on, not to mention a few other people. Think you could pass the word along? Don't worry about me. I'm just gonna hang out here at ICoMP and start World War III.
More shouting from the woman on the other end of the line, and Darryl is heard to say "Oh, and you two don't hate each other? Look, it was just a joke! And her bodyguard's a friggin' wimp... .
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