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My Brother's Keeper [IC]


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Monday, February 4, 2013
9:35 p.m.

It was always an unnerving thing when police sirens pierced the night air, blue and red lights washing over everything with a sudden sense of danger and urgency. The West End was no stranger to violent interludes, but somehow tonight seemed different. The overcast and starless sky only made the scene unfolding on the streets worse.

It began with a 911 call, two blocks away from an out of the way sports bar, someone heard something that sounded like gunshots. Less than fifteen minutes later, an ambulance and two squad cars arrived to a find a man lying on the ground, barely breathing and unconscious. Not long after that, detectives arrived on the scene.

"Geez. Looks like a war broke out here..." The first detective pulled on a pair of gloves, putting his hand against the brick wall of the alley where the victim had been found. "...are these bullet holes?"

"We didn't find any bullet casings... We found these." The officer held up a paper bag, and the detective raised an eyebrow.

"Are those... construction rivets?"

Edited by GranspearZX
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Freddy strolled down the street, holding a bottle of beer in his hand. It was a cool night, but he only wore a t shirt and jeans. He didn't often make his way out of the Fens, at least, not for drinking, but after the spate of arson attacks in the Fens, he sometimes felt the need to get out to a 'cleaner' part of town.

Of course, some fool had decided to make fun of his height, until Freddy had lifted the man clean of his feet with one arm and asked him if he liked height so much, maybe he would like to be dropped of a tall building. That shut him up, but got him kicked out of the bar.

Still, it ain't so bad... he told himself. We cracked a few cases, we helped a few people, we doin' okay...guess I'm being a real detective, huh? he whistled to himself.

"Evenin' officers!" he said, tucking his beer behind him as he came across the scene of the crime.

"Can I help? I'm...a deputy and everything..." he said with a broad grin.

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The detective on the scene actually noticed Freddy first. Local police were certainly aware of independent detectives--and Freddy was a uniquely identifiable individual. The officers seemed skeptical, but the detective waved him over.

"Dunno if you can help or not actually. Still trying to figure out what went on here. Seems like a pretty brutal assault. Only one witness interviewed so far... said some guy with a 'metal face' ran off at the sound of the sirens. Probably a lucky thing too... I heard the guy he left here was in pretty rough shape... what was his name again?"

"Ah..." The officer standing nearby thought for a moment. "Noble. Benjamin Noble."

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Freddy scratched his head, wishing he had disposed of the beer bottle behind him before he had strolled up. His breath probably smelt of booze a bit.

Shouldn't get to close. Harry will know what to do...

..but he ain't here. I am. Time to do my job!

Metal mask...Metal mask...didn't I hear about some guy...dammit, I can't remember...

"If I can help, I will, officer" he explained, given a smile below a broken nose. "Is that guy...Noble...ok? maybe I can patch him up? I ain't no doc, but...yeah I got this ability to stop bleeding, see? kinda handy when bullets and knives start flying around..."

He gave a half shrug. Anywhere else, it would have been hard to swallow. But this was Freedom City.

"They call me Bloody Mess, on account of that. Yeah, I guess it can get a bit messy too..." he conceded. "But I can stop anyone bleeding out. And then, I guess me and my partner, we could take a look at what happened here..."

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The detective raised an eyebrow; that was one heck of an ability to have. "Truthfully? From what I hear, he'll be lucky to make it to Trinity alive... Paramedics said his injuries were pretty extensive. If you hurry, you might be able to do... something." The detective hadn't seen Ben for himself, but he descriptions he'd been given made him visibly uncomfortable. It wasn't long after that a young man began moving about the crime scene, taking pictures of various points in the alley--and the myriad of holes gouged into the brickwork on either side of the alley. Short, thick rivets, approximately a half-inch long, were strewn everywhere.

"His wife is actually a nurse at Trinity Memorial; she's already been contacted,"

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"Truthfully? From what I hear, he'll be lucky to make it to Trinity alive... Paramedics said his injuries were pretty extensive. If you hurry, you might be able to do... something."

"Guess they have in hand then..." said Mess, sorrowfully. Without thinking, he took his beer from behind his back to swig away a little portion of sadness.

"I can stop bleeding...but if he is in hospital, they can transfuse him. Probably not a whole lot more I can do for the guy. If there was, I would be in the trauma unit all day helpin' people out...but, never know, I might swing over there anyhow..."

He threw his empty bottle, with impressive accuracy, into a trash can a few yards away.

"His wife is actually a nurse at Trinity Memorial; she's already been contacted."

"Well, she might know what happened then. Crime's been committed, gotta stop the perp, eh? Give him some justice...." he concluded, banging his fist into his palm.

With a burp, he wandered off, giving his partner a call.

"Harry, we gotta case...some guy with a metal mask...murder...I'm off to see the wife and the victim at the hospital...gotta dash..."

With that, he started running, his mighty legs fuelled by his spectacular blood pushing him to superhuman speeds. Effortlessly propelling himself down the streets, he made his way to the hospital...

"Make sure she can pay us!" yelled an unheard Hound down his phone.

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9:57 p.m.

Trinity Memorial Hospital

The Trinity Memorial emergency room was about what one would expect--plenty of moving and yelling. The waiting area was surprisingly quiet. It was a sharp contrast to what was going on in the background to attempt to save a man's life. Beyond the exam room stood a young brown-haired woman, clutching her cell phone in her shaking hands. Silent tears streamed down her face as she backed herself into a wall, unable to continue watching through the window.

"...come on, Charlotte," one of the other nurses took her by the arm. "He'll be fine... let the doctors do what they do best."

When Freddy arrived, both nurses were entering the waiting area from behind the reception counter. "I'll get you some coffee, Charlotte... Everything'll be okay."

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Freddy walked up to the nurses.

"Hey, lady, I don't mean to bother...but are you Ben Noble's wife?" he said, a bit awkwardly, understanding the woman's distress.

"Only, I thinks I could maybe help...I rushed over here to see if I could, anyways...look, I know I ain't no doctor or anything, but I got some super powers, I can make sure he don't bleed out or anything. It may not be much, but, well, I figure I should do what I can..."

He shifted his weight from foot to foot. He looked like he could lift a tank, but that wasn't much help in a hospital. He smelled a little of beer, was unshaven, unkempt, and had "casual" clothes on.

He ruffled his hair.

"Look, I gotta try, ok? I promise I can do something...if the doctors let me!"

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The first nurse looked up at Freddy, confused. Charlotte wiped her eyes and stood up, equally confused at Freddy's question. "Er... yes, I am. Do I know you?"

Charlotte looked a little torn, between personal feelings and hospital protocol. Never mind that Freddy wasn't a doctor and she wasn't sure if he could be trusted. She looked down at her phone. "...Clark, where are you...! Oh, sorry... um... ...come with me."

It was clear she'd made up her mind when she marched back towards the exam room, leading the way so that Freddy could follow unimpeded. She refused to feel helpless, and it showed. The ER security guard gave the pair a worried look; even he knew that it was highly unusual, but he didn't say a word, keeping an eye on them from a distance instead.

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10 minutes earlier...

Clark slipped into his apartment window quietly, as he always did after a night out in the Fens in costume. Shutting and locking it behind him, he headed into his room, removing the cowl and staring at himself in his mirror. Specifically, he was looking at a very minor knife wound that grazed his right cheek. It wasn't bleeding anymore, but he felt as if he had to come up with a better excuse for it than 'I cut myself shaving'. He sighed heavily and started to remove his gloves as well when his cell phone rang.

"Hello? Charlotte? What's wrong? Wh-... wait, slow down. What about Ben?"

Clark nearly dropped his phone when Charlotte explained. She was nearly hysterical--there really wasn't much that could make Charlotte panic as far as injury went; she was, after all, an ER nurse with over 10 years of experience. "...I'm on my way."

He threw on clothes over his costume; Clark didn't have time to change, and getting to Trinity from the Fens was going to take a while anyway. In minutes he was downstairs and on his bike, speeding across the city to get to the hospital, tickets be damned.

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Freddy had seen the inside of a few ER departments, of course - street fights had gone wrong from time to time. Initially he had seen a few of the wrong sides of them, and later, when he got tougher and harder, his friends and sometimes his enemies had.

But he hadn't ever marched up to a man in a coma before.

The doctors, they must know a ton more than him. It was just, well he could feel the blood oozing out of the man from where he stood. He didn't even have to be next to him.

Standing several yards from the man, he closed his eyes and concentrated. He didn't know anatomy, of course, but he knew that blood needed to stay in the body. In the heart. It shouldnt be spurtin where it shouldn't. He just had to seal it up there and there...

He smiled as he watched the doctors puzzled faces. The man's wounds had fully coagulated and sealed over without problem.

"Is he ok, doc?" he called out. "I tried my best. Stopped the bleeding and everythin' I can shunt around his blood, special ability I got. I don't know nuthin' about medicine or nuthin', but I know how to stop him bleedin' if I can help anymore, just let me know!"

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It all happened faster than the doctor in charge could really fathom. One minute, he was arguing with Charlotte Noble about staying out of the exam room, allowing random strangers inside... and the next, the surgeon that had been called to assist was telling him that the hemorrhaging had stopped.

"How did you... Never mind." He was really in no position to argue against small miracles. His patient still needed much-needed attention, after all. "Get this man up to the OR."

They all left the exam room and headed down the hall to an elevator, taking Ben Noble's unconscious and comatose form up to surgery. Charlotte could barely even look at him as he passed, his face bruised to almost unrecognizable proportions and a breathing tube down his throat. She turned to Freddy as they disappeared and headed to the upper floors, offering a thankful smile. "Thank you."

The quiet that followed was brief; a man approached at a relatively rapid pace, a motorcycle helmet clenched in his right hand. He looked exactly like an unbruised Ben, save the bandage on his cheek and 3-days worth of chin stubble. Charlotte seemed relieved to see him, and he hugged her before he said anything else. "What the hell is going on? Is Ben okay?" He turned to Freddy. "...and who're you?"

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Freddy felt the warm glow of satisfaction and gave an affirmative grunt at the progress Ben had made. He couldn't do any more, of course, he was no doctor. But he knew he could keep blood where it was meant to be...

"What the hell is going on? Is Ben okay?""...and who're you?"

Freddy reached out his hand to the man, who was a clear foot taller than him, and almost as broad. He always felt uncomfortable around tall guys...well, he could take that most guys were a good several inches taller than him, but when he had to crank his thick neck backwards to look at them, he always felt he needed to flex his muscles a bit.

He flexed his muscles a bit.

"Names Freddy, my friend. Freddy Furlong. Although I'm also called Bloody Mess. I guess you could call me one of them superheroes, although I'm also a private eye. I passed by where you friend had got jumped, and I rushed here to help out. In any way I can. I'm pleased ta meet ya!"

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All at once, Clark remembered his manners. It was pretty clear that he was on edge--and with good reason--but in that moment he forced himself to clear his mind, for Charlotte's sake if no one else's. He shook the significantly shorter man's hand, more or less unfazed by his height. "Clark... and he's not my friend; he's my brother."

Clark thought for a moment about how mutually exclusive those two things had been between himself and Ben. It only lasted a split second; Charlotte interrupted his thoughts by explaining what exactly happened in the exam room before he'd arrived. "Freddy was kind enough to lend a hand with his... abilities."

"Oh..." Clark looked from his sister-in-law to Freddy, then back to Charlotte. "So is he okay?"

"We don't know... but he's at least got a better chance now."

Clark grunted and nodded, glancing at Freddy in an acknowledging way. "I'm gonna make some phone calls. You go be with Ben..."

"...don't do anything dumb, Clark."

Clark had the good graces to look confused. There was a definite bit of exhaustion in his eyes, but there was something else that Charlotte instantly recognized.

"I remember what happened the last time something like this happened. YOU showed up at my doorstep a day later with a broken arm, among other things."

"Yeah, well..." He didn't say much else; Charlotte glared at him, shook her head, and then rushed off to the upper floors, leaving Clark and Freddy to their own devices.

"Bloody Mess, huh? That's an... unusual name."

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"Hur Hur" guffawed Mess. "I'm a pretty unusual person" he answered.

"Look, Clark...it is Clark, right? that guy's Brother? The guy who did this, real nasty piece of work. Kind of guy that's a cut above the normal piece of trash that walks the streets, I'm guessin?"

"Can't sweep away all the trash from the streets, but every know and again, along comes a piece that's just askin to be sorted out, you know? someone that needs to be put behind bars. And sooner rather than later"

He bashed one hammer like fist into one spade like hand.

"Me and my partner, Harry, we run a detective agency. We can help find this guy. And we can help put him away!"

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Clark paused for several moments. He didn't look directly at Freddy, but he was certainly listening, even while his own thoughts were rolling around in his head. He rubbed a thumb against the bandage across his cheek as he thought about what he should do... or rather, what Crusader should do.

"Did my sister-in-law hire you guys?" The taller man's expression was eerily blank, but just the lack of eye contact gave away the building rage he was trying to contain--after all, his brother was upstairs fighting for his life. Even without knowing how complicated their relationship had been for the past 30+ years, it was a difficult thing to hold back. "Ben has... had a gambling problem, so they haven't got a lot of money. And I'm just a teacher at FDR High, so..."

Clark paused for a second. Had Ben's gambling problem come back to haunt him again? Maybe he'd relapsed. Clark really didn't want to believe that. His fists clenched tightly just at the thought of doubting his brother while he was in that condition. But it did make him wonder about his brother's connections...

His demeanor slowly began to soften, and he sighed heavily. "...Sorry. It's been a long night. Thanks for the help. And I hope you find the guy. Let me know if I can help..." He offered a slight smile, but there was little else but turning the city upside down to find Ben's attacker on his mind.

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"Don't worry man" said the Mess, clapping Clark on the arm. "Me and the Hound, we can sort this for ya'. That's what we do. And we are good at it. We gonna get this man for ya, and we gonna get him behind bars. Dont ya worry!" he said, giving the man a reassuring smile.

If nothing else, Freddy didn't lack confidence in his abilities, or Harry's.

He put his hands in his joggers, and, with a bit or rummaging, gave Clark the official card of the Bloodhound Detective Agency. He had them printed proper, as he couldn't read himself.

"Ok man, stay in touch! that's our number!"

With that, he left Clark, whistling tunelessly, and reaching for his mobile, bringing up Harrys number.

"Hey Harry! We got a case! Some scum been doin' a real number on the streets...

...no I ain't asked about money...."

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Clark was on his phone as he walked away, staring at the business card Freddy had given him. It seemed that he was actually considering it. In the meantime, the detective and two officers arrived as Freddy reached the lobby.

"Ah, you're still here. Everything worked out, I hope..." The detective adjusted his tie as the two officers headed to the lobby and then behind the counter, headed up to the OR. "Found another eyewitness... homeless woman, but she says she saw our victim get pulled into that alley by three guys. Couldn't really make out much else of what she say saying though... I think she might've been on something. She's probably down by the Liberty Subway station. As far as Mr. Noble goes, I'm gonna have a couple of uniforms stick around for a day or two... just a hunch."

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The Hound stood outside the Hospital, heating up his mobile with phone calls.

Another god-damn charity case. What does Fred think we use to pay the Groceries? Bleedin' hearts and goodwill?

In his heart of hearts, Harry didn't like this kind of murderous street violence any more than the next guy. It made his skin crawl.

"Yeah yeah, some kind of homeless woman, that's what we heard. Three guys, that's right. Yeah, yeah...Liberty Subway. You know something? hmm? yeah? maybe...hmmm...maybe not huh? oh yeah? right? he might know? yeah, hmmm, good point, ill give him a call, the rotter..."

He hung up, and took another deep draw an almost dead cigarette with a long line of ash. Harry knew plenty of ears and eyes on the street, and knew plenty of ways to get them to talk. When people heard of this kind of random violence, even the thugs of Freedom City dropped the code of silence and loosened their tongues.

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"Homeless lady over by... oh! You mean Mabel. Nah, that's not her real name... nobody knows what her real name is, but that's what she answers to. I dunno that she's actually homeless either, but she wanders a lot during the day. Sweet old lady with a shopping cart full of God-knows-what. This late at night? She's probably at the station now. Probably offerin' to read people's fortunes or whatever she does..."

Harry's contact didn't seem too unwilling to part with the information; it seemed benign enough, even with the reasoning behind it. Nobody wanted some dangerous thug--or group of thugs, as it turned out--wandering around assaulting people virtually out in the open, for whatever reason.

It was late enough that the last train had already left Liberty Station, meaning there likely wouldn't be anyone down there save Mabel and Freedom Transit Authority workers.

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One beat up Caddillac ride later...

"Here we are then" said the Hound as he stepped out of their car with his partner, who was munching on yet another burger and downing a massive coke.

The Hound had some cold coffee in his hand which he resolutely held onto, taking the odd sip to swirl around his mouth.

"Damn late..." mumbled the Mess, his mouth full.

"Don't go moaning to me, partner" sighed Harry, lighting up a cigarette with one hand. "You started this whole case..." he moaned.

Harry walked up to a pair of station workers, who had drawn the night shift.

"Hey folks. Sorry to bother you. We are looking for some Homeless lady, goes by the name of Mabel, pushes around some shopping cart. I understand she wheels around here at night? any idea where we might find her? we are looking into a serious crime, we think she may have some information...."

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The workers looked over at Harry as he approached. As he explained why he was there, one of them pointed further down the subway tunnel. "Miss Mabel's usually down towards the last platform around this time. Nobody else down there but us, her, and sanitation. Serious crime, huh?" They looked genuinely curious, but neither seemed willing to press for an explanation. Instead, one of the pair politely led Harry and Freddy down into the subway and down into the virtually empty tunnel, lights flickering overhead and making it difficult to see the entire way down the platform.

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"Yeah yeah, its all hush hush so don't go yapping yer mush about it ok? all secret and all. We can't talk about it and every'thing..." yapped a happy Mess, pleased to be able to talk about his pride - namely his profession.

"All con-fee-dent-shall as they say. So anyway, this guy gets murdered in the West End. All gruesome, ya see. Blood and everything. So I was wandering along and..."

Harry winced and put his finger and thumb to a furrowed brow.

"...and thats when we ended up here. Seems this Mabel might have seen sumthin' so we needs to check it out!" concluded the Mess a few minutes later, after yabbering to the workers about the con-fee-dent-shall information.

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The workers' eyes widened as Mess spoke, oblivious to how annoyed Harry seemed to be. Once the story was over, though, they reluctantly headed back to work, leaving the pair to continue down the platform on their own. It didn't take long for them to reach the end of it, where an elderly woman was sitting on a bench. Her shopping cart was in the corner beside her, the top covered by an olive green blanket. She didn't seem to have noticed Hound or Mess immediately, humming a melancholy tune that echoed through the empty subway tunnel.

All at once, she stopped, looking up at the pair. "Can I help you boys?"

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"Sure Ma'am" replied the Hound, his nose crinkling.

Sweet Mary mother of Jesus, she reeks worse than most homeless wasters...

One of the downsides of his exceptional nose was the alertness he had to less delectable smells. This being a case in point.

"We heard you might have been a witness to a murder earlier tonight, Ma'am..."

Sweet Lord in heaven...the stench...

"...in the West End. We don't know the full details. The man's name was Noble, although you would not have known that. Dragged off the street into some sidewalk. Did you see or hear anything? please Ma'am, this is very important. We want to keep the streets safe, something I am sure you can *ahem* appreciate..."

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