Cleanup On Aisle Scumbag

August 04, 2018:

Batgirl finds Frank Castle just after he finishes dealing with some members of the Mexican Cartel.

Bomb-wracked warehouse, Hell's Kitchen, NYC

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

The summer heat in the ruined sections of Hell's Kitchen is oppressive. Certainly, it's oppressive elsewhere in the city too, but somehow the condemned and half-ruined warehouse makes it feel all the worse. That could also be because of the scents of cordite and blood that hang thick in the humid air. Frank Castle compulsively reloads his pistol, then holsters it, tucking the half-used mag into another pocket in his black cargo pants. He's sweating in his trenchcoat, but hasn't removed it. After all, it hides the illegally-short, pistol-grip shotgun hanging at his side pretty well. There are four corpses scattered around him, young members of the Mexican Cartel. Three of them are just lying on the ground, but one is zip-tied to a chair. Both of his knees have been shot out, and then he was apparently finished with a bullet to the head. It's not pretty. Frank turns away from the scene of his crimes, pausing a moment and cocking his head to try and listen to some errant sound.

Silent and dark as slick oil, the caped figure drops down from the rafters of the warehouse to land lightly on the thick, sensible soles of heavy combat boots. As she rises from her landing squat, her posture is casual, but not unwatchful. Her scalloped cape drapes around her, save for the right-side that is swept back to show where her hand has fallen to where her bolas is neatly coiled at her right hip. Too blue eyes are focused on the back of Frank Castle, and the redhead's expression is unclear. Then she speaks, her alto pitched just a bit lower, "Did he tell you what you needed to know?"

This time, Frank doesn't draw on Batgirl. His shoulders tense, the fingers of his right hand twitching almost imperceptibly as if they were literally itching to have a trigger under them, but he doesn't draw. Turning slowly toward her, he growls, "Did you get lost at the Hudson?" Apparently, it's a rhetorical question, because he glances aside to the dead man in the chair, considering for a moment before he shakes his head, "No. He didn't know it." The big man seems pretty certain that his victim wasn't putting him on. "But he told me who does."

A small smile plays lightly at her lips, and she steps forward with only the softest sound of boots against the blood-sticky concrete. "You came to my city, I've come to yours." If she's squeamish at the sight of the Cartel's blood, she doesn't let it betray her features. All she does is look critically at each, only to turn her profile back towards Frank. Her hand drops from the bolas, letting her cape sweep back into place around her shoulders and across her torso. When she looks back at him, her expression is a bit arched. "And what will you do when you find your next target? Kill him, too? I think that's a lousy tactic: people get wind that you kill them no matter if they talk or not, and they may not talk at all."

Frank's gaze flickers around at the dead men, following Batgirl's. Two are dead from shotgun blasts, one from pistol and knife, and then there's the one slumped in the chair against his zip-ties. "I don't want this city," Castle rasps, "I don't want any city." His head turns from one side to the other, listening for the sounds of anyone more official taking an interest in his handiwork. Nodding briefly in response to her question, he adds, "If they're on the list, I deal with them. If they give me bad intel, it's still intel." His hand settles on the grip of his pistol, "Why are you so interested in these shitbirds?"

That comment is neatly filed away, though she already knows how she would have responded. The headline of the Vigilantist Anarchist blog had boldly claimed that THE PUNISHER IS JUST WHAT HELL'S KITCHEN NEEDS. Frank may not want the city, but the city wants him — or at least parts of it does. She instead advances another step, maneuvering carefully through the barely-contained carnage of the Punisher. "I'm interested because you're interested. You tracked fleeing Cartel members to Gotham, but didn't kill them. You came back here, and these ones you killed. They were on the list. Your list?" She has the tone of an investigator, someone pressing for more information.

Frank's a bit of a chauvinist, all things considered, so the approach of the costumed woman doesn't trigger his defensive instincts as readily as that of a man his own size might have. He keeps his hand on his pistol, but makes no move to draw it or tense up any further. "Didn't have what I needed." Which could be taken any number of ways. "Someone starts killing people without a list, they're crazy. That's how you get serial killers." Says the serial killer (by some definitions). It's probably a good thing that Frank hasn't found the Vigilantist Anarchist blog, because he'd be disgusted by it — and a little tickled. "As long as you don't get in my way, I don't care if you're interested. You try to stop me, we'll have a problem. These assholes got to die."

A serial killer by the simplest definition is just a murderer who kills in a series. Batgirl could point that out, but instead she just continues her slow advance. She knows she's not the only one who heard the gunfire; she knows that the NYPD could be arriving on scene soon enough — though only if the NYPD still even cares to police this region of Hell's Kitchen. "The Kitchen Irish, the Mexican Cartel, and the Dogs of Hell. That's your list, isn't it?" Barbara finally stops when she's just a yard or so from Frank. In her combat boots and tall ears, she gives the air of being tall, but the four inches of difference between the Punisher and the Bat is easily measured with her being in melee range. Her blue eyes steadily hold his brown gaze. "Last time those three gangs were in the same spotlight, they were in a three-way shoot-out… at the carousel in Central Park."

Frank just shrugs a little at her repetition of his list, but there's a little smirk at one corner of his lips that suggests she's hit the mark, and he's not particularly shy about it. As the caped librarian closes to just outside arm's reach, Castle's hand shifts from his pistol to the hilt of his Ka-Bar, only to freeze as she continues. His nostrils flare and his eyes widen, a touch of madness touching his features as he struggles to control his reaction. "Nobody cares about shitbags killing each other." The added harshness to his already gravelly voice gives lie to his words, to someone who pays attention closely. Frank really needs to stop hanging around detectives if he wants to keep his secrets.

"No." Barbara's voice is softer now, but that softness does not take the predatory caution out of her voice. "Nobody cares about that… just like it took two weeks for the media to run any coverage on the veteran's family that was killed in the crosshairs of their shoot-out. You care about that, don't you?" She may not seem it, but there's a sense she's ready for that explosion from Castle that may be incoming. "You're seeking justice… at the end of a gun barrel." Or knife-point, because — perhaps — the Batgirl had noticed the shift of his hand to his knife hilt. The only hint that she's aware of her own danger is the slightest shift on her left boot sole.

"Fuck the media." That harshness has only deepened in Frank Castle's voice, and the tension knots itself into his broad shoulders, settling an ache into the base of his neck. He doesn't draw the blade, but his knuckles whiten on the hilt. "And you stay the fuck away from my family." Or the memory thereof, apparently. The flared nostrils and wide eyes suggest a deep, burning rage — one that might be echoed in the close-range shots that killed or finished off a couple of the cartel members around them. But he keeps a close rein on it, taking long, slow, purposeful breaths. "Those shitbirds deserve to die. You don't want to put yourself on their side."

The building tension in Frank Castle's frame is met with a lift of gloved hands, the finger-pads and palms turned out toward him. "Revenge is a dangerous motivation, Frank." His name is a soft, almost gentle murmur. "I'm not here to get in your way." Though Barbara's eyes travel slightly aside toward the Cartel kids cooling on the cement. When she met his eyes once more, hers are still steady. She advances one more step. "But, these kids were not the ones responsible for your family's deaths. There are some in these dark places that could be brought back." For being such a proponent of non-lethal means, Barbara has read enough about Frank to know who she is talking to. She takes a step back, and then another, her hands starting to lower.

Of course she knows his name. But it's still an unpleasant shock to hear it. Enough of a shock to cut through Frank's building rage and ground him in the practicalities again. Unfortunately, those practicalities include 'is she a threat to what I'm doing and if so, should she be found dead here too.' Fortunately — for both of them — the answer to that appears to be 'no.' Still, the step forward, within arm's reach, causes his right arm to tense, drawing a finger's width of his Ka-Bar. "Bullshit. These ones were there. Even Marcos." He's done his research, apparently; the name is accompanied by a gesture toward the young man zip-tied to the chair. When she starts to withdraw again, he pushes the knife back into its sheath and drops his hand away from it, "I don't kill anyone who doesn't deserve it." There's a pause, a grimace, and he admits, "Unless they make me." There's another pause, and then he adds, "Don't worry, the bombs did a lot of my work for me."

He doesn't kill anyone who doesn't deserve it… Barbara's jaw tightens briefly before she takes another step back. Again, her blue eyes cut toward the young corpse done up in zip-ties. The realities of Frank's list become clear: he's killing with efficient purpose. A grim part of her wonders if that is better than killing with blind rage. "Maybe, but you don't seem like a man who enjoys tallying up collateral damage. They didn't get in your way, the thousands who died in those bombs." Then Barbara tests Frank, almost checking for some humanity in the killer before her — some reason to not intercede. "They deserve someone to care about their deaths, too." The moment she takes one more backward step, the sirens of a lone police car sound several blocks down. She turns toward it, brushing aside her cape to drop her hand to her grappler gun. When she looks back to Frank, it's almost in profile.

"No shit." And he passes the humanity test, if only barely. Frank shakes his head, "The Dogs weren't involved in the bombs, the Cartel was. The Irish were too fucked up to help, I think. Even more reason to go after the Cartel. Bombs are a coward's way." At the sound of the siren, Castle looks up, like a hound scenting the air. He shakes his head, "There's a whole lot of people here who deserve closure. Might be they get it." As the siren wails closer, he shakes his head, "Now I'm gone. I don't want to have to kill cops just doin' their job." And he starts to turn, "You want to help, stop poking at me and start finding out where the cockroaches scurried off to. You don't want to help… just stay outta my way."

In fact, Frank passes another humanity check when he says those words just before he begins his retreat. With her compact grappler out, she gives Frank one last look. To his either/or options, she gives no reply. She's already made her decision on how she's going to intercede — and whether or not it will get on Frank's bad side is still undecided. She nods her head once to him. "I'll be in touch." Then she fires the grappler at the ceiling where it hits its target. Up she flies to the rafters where she swings up onto a beam and begins to backtrack to the window where she slipped inside minutes too late to witness Castle knocking a few more names off his list.

Frank watches Batgirl depart, although her parting line leaves a sour taste in his mouth. Time to figure out how she's tracking him and change it. After he gets out of here before the cops show up. He draws his knife and pops the zip-ties, collecting them and tucking them into a pocket, then pushing Marcos out of the chair. Sure, the cops will figure it out, but there's no need to make things easier on them. Only then does he see to his exit. No rafters or windows for him. Nope, he just goes to the back door — the only one still open to this section of the warehouse, and slips out, walking steadily away from the site of the massacre even as the police show up at the other end.

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