CUTSCENE: The Final Six

October 21, 2018:

The last six people that Frank Castle knows are connected to his family's death meet their ends.

New York City and Gotham City

Characters

NPCs: Dogs of Hell, Kitchen Irish, and Mexican Cartel

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

10/5/18

New Yorkers are crazy. Roller derby fans are crazy. So what do New York roller derby fans do when there are demons on the streets? Go watch derby, of course.

There are, however, sometimes benefits to knowing nut-cases, at least when you're hunting them. Frank Castle has gotten to know one of those nut-cases real well over the last couple of months. He's been studying Skip Samson real close, trying to find an opportunity to get him alone, or alone enough. Unfortunately, Skip's been spending time with newly-arrived Dogs of Hell brothers, brothers who weren't part of the Central Park shooting, and that makes them — if not innocents then — 'not on Frank's list.'

Normally, a derby bout, or whatever they're called, wouldn't be on Frank's list of 'great places to kill somebody.' Too crowded, too many chances to lose your target. But when Skip the Asshole isn't going anywhere else on account of Punisher and demons, you do what you gotta do.

So Frank finds himself sitting a couple of rows behind Skip and his friends, a heavy winter jacket hiding the pistol and knife at his side and a beanie pulled down low to make him harder to recognize. Sure, most of his attention is on Skip and his buddies, but staring too much would be suspicious. Which means watching roller derby for the first time in his life.

Women with names like Maiden America, SinderHella, Semper Fatale, Mad Minx, and Baberaham Lincoln whip around a flat loop of track, slamming into each other. It doesn't take long for Frank to spot which teams have good tactics and which teams are just skating by on skill. The ones with tactics usually win. Even then, those hits look like they raise some pretty serious bruises. Hell, some of those women probably don't look too far from how he does.

Something about that is bubbling in Castle's brain when Skip's bladder finally waves the white flag at the half a dozen beers he's had. Still shaking a fist at one of the refs (why's it the refs always get shit on? Every sport, man), he pushes his way along the row to the aisle. His friends don't even look up.

That's Frank's cue, and he pushes out of the aisle seat he snagged, following about ten meters behind Skip the Asshole on the way to the pisser. The guy isn't wearing his colors — he wouldn't have lasted this long if he was a total idiot — but the big bushy beard makes it easy to follow him.

Skip has already picked a urinal by the time Frank pulls a 'Cleaning in Progress' sign in front of the door and enters the bathroom. There's one other guy two urinals down from Skip, and so Frank violates guy-code pretty hardcore and takes the pisser right next to Skip, getting a surprised glare from the Dog of Hell. It's a quick one though, because it's an even worse violation of guy-code to look at another guy standing at a urinal.

Frank unzips, but doesn't actually whip it out, waiting for the third guy to head out. Luckily, he does before anyone comes in past the cleaning sign, and Frank doesn't waste a moment, not with Skip already shaking off. His left hand goes into his jacket, pulling out the knife, and then he steps over behind Skip.

That's way out of bounds as far as guy-code goes, but maybe there are exceptions for murder. The Punisher's right hand grabs for Skip's right wrist, and then he jabs and twists with the Ka-Bar, slipping the heavy blade between two ribs, breaking the liquid seal, and pulling it out. Clean shot, and Skip's struggles are already getting weaker and more frantic.

"One batch, two batch, penny and dime."

The words are murmured into Skip's ear, and then Frank lowers the Dog of Hell down to the tile and drags him into an empty stall. He wipes the blood off his knife and hand, sheathes the weapon, and closes the door behind him. Five left, plus the late addition.

As he's circling the stadium's lower level and watching Mae Kim Beg level Scarlett Leather, the redhead sliding across the floor and slamming into the boards well outside the rink, Frank puts it together. Roller Derby's a hell of a lot better cover for vigilantes than camping accidents.


10/8/18

Three Cartel members left from the carousel, and one of them is totally in the wind. Nobody Frank talks to has any idea where he is. The other two, a pair of brothers, he's finally found. They ordered in a little entertainment, and apparently getting smacked around for fun wasn't on the woman's menu, so she talked.

The basement apartment used to have six floors of crappy apartments above it, now it's mostly rubble, but the basement is still standing, and still accessible from a sunken entrance. Just one sunken entrance. It makes a hell of a breach, but it also makes it so there's no way out once Frank gets in with them. That'll do.

Frank takes his time on the approach, spotting two security cameras — way more than this crappy remnant of a building should have. That means they've prepared. They're ready for a breach. Let's break it down.

Step one is taking out the cameras. That's easy enough. Castle pulls out the drum of his Striker combat shotgun, swapping out a few rounds to get the mix he needs. He steps out of the alleyway sheltering him and heads straight for the concrete stairs down to the sunken door. As he closes, his trenchcoat sweeps back, baring the white skull spray-painted on his black vest — and the Striker. One blast of 000 buckshot obliterates one camera, and a second, fired as quickly as he can shift targets and pull the trigger, wipes out the other one.

Step two is the door. Ten rounds left, and he spends four of them — breacher rounds that pulverize into powder upon impact — blowing out the hinges of the door. It sags on six separate deadbolts, but hangs open far enough for…

Step three is distraction. Frank palms a flashbang, flips it inside, and puts his back against the wall alongside the shattered door. Shouts and cries of alarm go up inside, more than just two guys. They lift up to screams as the interior is filled with a blast of noise and light as the flashbang detonates. Six rounds left.

Step four is the breach. He waits for the first fusillade of panic fire to crack into the concrete wall behind him, hit the door, and — in the case of one round — go singing through a hole in the door and hit the facade of the building across the street (it's an abandoned ruin too). Then he pushes away from the wall and puts a big size 12 boot into the door, sending it twisting into the room and tearing the frame around the deadbolts.

Step five is target acquisition. The Punisher recognizes the first face he sees, Miguel, he's on the list. Miguel gets two slugs in the chest before he can raise the TEC-9 in his hands. Miguel goes down in a tumble of blood and limbs, and the Punisher starts looking for his next target, murmuring, "One batch, two batch, penny — "

He cuts off as another young man pops up from behind the couch with a pistol. That guy he doesn't know. Must be new in town. So instead of 12-gauge slugs, the guy gets a size 12 boot to the outside of his knee. The joint gives with a pop, and the guy goes down screaming. " — and dime."

A bullet slams into The Punisher's side, into the kidney plate of his vest, and he staggers, twisting toward the shooter. It's not his other target, Jaime, so the next two slugs go into the chair the guy's hiding beside, blowing the cheap fake velvet easy chair apart. Two rounds left. The exploding chair is plenty of distraction to get in close and club the Cartel guy's head with the butt of his Striker. Down he goes too.

One or two more, now where's that shitstain Jaime… something slams into his back, and he stumbles forward, into the remains of the easy chair. There's a wiry guy pulling back a baseball bat from a swing, and behind him, heading for the door, Jaime. The Punisher snarls, and the guy with the bat flinches.

That's all the Punisher needs to know, and he charges forward, knowing the flincher isn't going to get a blow in before he drives his shoulder into the asshole's stomach, knocking him off his feet and dropping the both of them into a pile on the ground. The Cartel guy's out of breath, and the Punisher brings up the Striker in just his right hand, using his left to grapple with the bat-man's weapon. "One batch, two batch," the shotgun roars, the Punisher recovers, and then the weapon roars again, and Jaime tumbles in the doorway, "penny and dime."

He's not getting up. The guy under him is still wriggling though, hitting him with his free hand, trying to kick, bite, screaming in fear. The blows hurt, especially an elbow that hits the still-healing bullet-wound in his side. Twenty days does a lot for an injury, but not that much, and Frank grunts. He almost goes for the knife at his side, the pistol at the small of his back, but he thinks better of it, instead getting a handful of the guy's shirt and hauling him up — right into a full-on headbutt.

Step six is exfiltration. Even with his head ringing, two guys moaning, one guy screaming and grabbing his knee, and two guys giving their death rattles, Frank Castle can manage that no problem. It's as simple as turning and walking out the ruined door, stepping over Jaime's body as he goes. Then it's off into the night with an empty shotgun, a few more bruises, a headache, and just three more names on the list plus the late addition.


10/10/18

Sometimes, demon city works in Frank's favor. Like if there weren't demons playing merry hell with New York, Elliot "Grotto" Grote would be in an airport, where they've got a lot better security, instead of a bus terminal where the over-worked and over-tired cops are more worried about crowd control than what people bring in.

Still, that many cops in the area means that Castle's got to do this quiet. That's not gonna stop him from wearing his vest though. He wants Grotto to know what's coming right before he dies.

His source told him that Grotto would be at the bus terminal tonight, but not much more than that, so the first thing to do is to find the bastard. It takes almost an hour of ducking the attention of the cops just trying to do their job and get people out of town safely. And then there he is, and Frank finds a place to watch the nervous mobster.

Grotto's too nervous to try to bluff his way past the cops, his shirt already sweated through, but he's looking around in somethin' real close to panic, so he's not scanning the area smoothly like he should. When Grotto finally cracks and makes a move, the Punisher smirks crookedly. He's gettin' real familiar with public bathrooms these days.

There's no one in there with Grotto, so the Punisher takes the opportunity, letting his jacket swing open as he digs into the pocket of his jacket. Grotto sees broad shape closing fast, and then sees the white skull sprayed across black kevlar, and he mouth opens to shout, to do something.

Too late.

The Punisher shoves him into one of the stalls, Grotto's head glancing off the toilet paper dispenser and drawing a yelp instead of anything more articulate. The Punisher heels the door closed and locks it, then grasps the two handles of the garrote and slips it over Grotto's throat just in time to hear a couple of guys come into the bathroom behind them.

Grotto's struggling to get a breath, to say something, to scream for help, but all he can do against the dull pressure of the thick cable is choke and groan, his dress shoes scrabbling at the tile. Grunting against the pain in his side, the Punisher forces his arm's even further crossed, tightening the cable around Grotto's neck.

The two guys at the sinks notice the noise and glance at the closed stall, see black combat boots behind and between dress shoes, both pair shifting and moving, the sounds of struggle, or something else.

"Hey, damn man. That's nasty"

"Get a fuckin' room, you dirty bastards."

Even as he pulls the garrote tighter, the Punisher smirks a little. He's fucking Grotto alright, just not the way they think. As the two assholes laugh their way out of the bathroom, Grotto's struggles get weaker and weaker. "One batch, two batch, penny and dime." And then Grotto's still. The Punisher hauls up on the garrote one more time, almost lifting Grotto's newly-made corpse off the ground, then lets him slump down across the toilet.

The garrote goes back in his pocket, and Frank pulls his jacket over the skull emblem on his vest, opens the door, and walks out. Two more for Maria and the kids. And one for Hell's Kitchen.


10/13/18

Maybe Jacko got tired of running. Maybe he thought the Punisher wouldn't dare come into the middle of a Dogs of Hell chopshop to get him, especially one without windows to shoot through. Frank doesn't much care why he was able to find out that Jacko was at this particular chopshop, just that he was.

No sense walking into a trap though, so Frank circles the block a few times, each revolution getting a little closer to the target. There's a couple of guys who might be lookouts sitting in a window seat at a bar down the street, but they're easy enough to avoid. Before he goes in, he unbuttons his trenchcoat, pushing it back to show the white skull on his vest.

Cracking open the back door lets out the smell of hot metal and the sound of violent impacts of metal on metal, just like you'd expect from a chopshop. It's the blood and screams that are out of place. Frank almost steps on half a Dog of Hell at the door, grimacing and bringing his KRISS Vector submachine gun up to his shoulder. That's definitely not what he expected.

Coming around the end of a truck, with the KRISS turned sideways to clear the hood, he stops suddenly, his eyes widening a moment. A seven-food… thing… stands in the midst of a half-dozen Dogs of Hell, blood-stained chains wrapped about its body and lower face and hanging from its arms.

Two of the Dogs are already on the ground, bleeding, and the demon has wrapped one of its bladed chains around the neck of Jacko, lifting the wiry rat of a man up off the ground. Jacko's feet kick, and he struggles for the chains around his neck.

One of the Dogs of Hell glances aside to Frank and does a double-take. He looks between the chain-wrapped demon and the Punisher and apparently decides that the devil who is human is better than the devil who isn't. "Help us, man! It's killing us!"

Punisher looks from the pleading Dog to the demon holding up its prey — his prey. And he lowers the KRISS, tilting his head to watch the demon. It looks at him, still holding Jacko up off the ground.

"What are you doing?" The Dog of Hell looks panicked, backing up toward a shotgun on a toolbox.

The Punisher folds his hands over the reciever of the submachine gun, "One batch, two batch, penny and dime."

The demon may have no idea what the Punisher means, but he gets the idea, and lets out a laugh like a bus wreck. Bringing its other hand to Jacko's head, the demon squeezes, pulls, and Jacko's head comes off, along with part of his spine. There's a welter of blood, coating the demon's chest and its wrapping of chains. And then it starts to laugh again, turning back toward the surviving Dogs of Hell and drawing back an arm to gather up a trio of bladed chains.

"Back off, ugly." The Dogs of Hell exchange surprised glances at Frank's order to the demon, but it doesn't seem to notice. Two steps into its advance, Frank has the stock of the KRISS snugged into his shoulder, and his finger strokes the trigger, pumping out a rapid series of two-round bursts. The demon staggers, black blood splattering from the holes punched into its body, and whirls back toward Frank as the Dogs of Hell scatter.

Castle ducks under a lashing chain, flipping the selector switch to full auto, and fires from the hip, pounding the charging demon with the remains of the magazine. And then it's on him. Clearly slowed by the damage, it's also just as clearly still monstrously powerful, the backhanded sweep of its left hand taking Frank off his feet and throwing him into a half-stripped car chassis.

Twisting aside, Frank avoids another sweep of chains that snarl with the chassis of the car. For a moment, he thinks he's got it, the thing trapped by the binding of its chains — and then it plants its feet, grabs the chains with both hands, and pulls the whole car off its supports, sending it careening across the shop.

The chains slip loose in the wreckage, and the chain-wrapped demon comes after Frank again. The distraction has given him the time to snatch up the SPAS-12 shotgun from the toolbox, and when it comes, it comes into a rapid clickity-BOOM, clickity-BOOM, clickity-BOOM as he pumps the slide and sends three shots into it, almost as quick as he can pull the trigger. The demon staggers, but keeps coming, until he turns the shotgun barrel-up between them, jabs the business end into the mess of chains that wrap about its jaw, and pulls the trigger.

The demon's metal-wrapped body slams into Frank, driving him to the concrete floor of the garage, but it doesn't move except for a few twitches… and more than a few drizzles of thick black blood.

"Shit." At least it didn't get in his mouth, but he's going to need a new trenchcoat after this. Castle has to get all four of his limbs working on the problem to roll the thing off of him, and he looks down at it, then pumps the last three rounds into its chest to make sure.

Then, reloading the submachine gun hanging from its sling at his side, he glances to where a heavy wrench clatters to the ground, studies the Dog of Hell who knocked it over, turns, and walks away.


10/21/18

"Aqui! Aqui vienes! Bienvenido!"

There's a party going on in Gotham, on the waterfront in West Village. A hero is arriving, the man who lived. The Gotham branch of the Mexican Cartel is out in force to welcome Romano Sanchez, the last survivor of the Cartel that was at Central Park shootout. The burly young man gets out of the car to the applause of his fellows, turning out to the north and flipping off the water theoretically between here and New York City.

"Eh, este cabron. Pinche Punisher de mierda!" Sanchez's friends laugh, and a pair of women slink up to his sides, whispering suggestions into his ears that spread a grin wide across his face.

As Sanchez is escorted into the apartment building, one of his fellow Cartel members calls out, "Viva Gotham! This is why I love Gotham. Cops are crooked enough to take bribes, but straight-arrow enough to go after a cop-killing chingado like the Punisher."

Upstairs, Sanchez looks out over the river, grinning broadly. He's free and clear, surrounded by Cartel family and crooked Gotham cops. Aaaand he's being distracted by some very warm hands going down the front of his pants. He gets into the act, slipping one of the women's tops off, and looking over to the other as she begins a slow strip-tease to his left. The topless woman in front of him gives him a devilish smile, sinking down to her knees and reaching for his belt-buckle.

Blood and brains explode out the back of Sanchez's head, and only then does the sonic boom of the .338 Lapua Magnum round arrive, well before the sound of the gunshot itself arrives over the kilometer and a half of the Queen River.

In the Palisades on the New Jersey mainland, The Punisher works the bolt on the Accuracy International AWM and lets out a breath with seven words on it, "One batch, two batch, penny and dime." His eyes close, and he doesn't even watch Sanchez's body fall. It's over. Maria, Lisa, Frank Jr. Everyone involved in their deaths. Gone.

Without even thinking about it, Castle begins to pack up the rifle, collecting the spent round and the cloth he put over the metal catwalk.

So this is what closure feels like. There's a weight off his chest, room for him to breathe.


10/22/18

Morning sunlight warms Frank's skin, and he breathes in the early summer air, listening to the sound of Maria moving around downstairs. He rolls onto his back, draping one arm over his forehead to shade his eyes, and the noises downstairs cut off, replaced by the sound of Maria's bare feet padding up the stairs.

Frank smiles, lifting his arm to turn his dark gaze to his wife, making a soft sound of appreciation.

"Hey, Sleepyhead." Maria's smile is just as warm as Frank's, and she leans over the bed, ducking down to share a slow, comfortable kiss. She straightens up, and they both stretch their arms out, the touch of their hands lingering.

But there are more footsteps on the stairs outside, boots, and a man in olive drab with a balaclava steps up behind Maria. Frank is already sitting up, screaming, "NO!" But it's too late. Blood spatters across his face and the wall behind him.

And then he wakes up with a start, the pain almost physical. Castle squeezes his eyes closed, one hand tightening into a fist, and he stifles a sob. Drawing in a breath, he pushes himself up on the couch of his flop.

So that's a 'no' on closure. Fine then. One more thing to do for his own closure. That house, too many memories associated with that house. And there's still one more name on the list. The one that gets closure for thousands.

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