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The Goldilocks Principle

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There's a stranger in Matt's apartment. The guy's good, too; Matt has a feeling he wouldn't be able to detect him if he still had his sight and none of his heightened senses. Interesting.

He goes on with his getting home routine and waits. Keys and phone on the counter, suit over the back of a chair. The guy never moves. Not only that, but his heartbeat and breathing remain steady and calm. He's clearly not perturbed or gearing up for a fight, he's just sort of there, silent and motionless in the dark.

Well, here goes nothing.

“Are you here to kill me?”

“That depends.”

Still cool as a cucumber, which is quite worrisome. Only a select few kinds of people could remain so eerily calm upon getting caught breaking and entering, and they aren't the kinds of people Matt particularly cares to tangle with after the day he's just had. Or ever, to be perfectly honest.

“On what?”

“On how much of a fuss you kick up when I take apart that wall behind you for the $30K worth of illegal firearms I stashed in it before you started renting this shithole.”

“Oh,” Matt says. “I've been wondering about those.”

“Wondering.”

“Well, yes. Wouldn't you?”

“I'm pretty sure most people in their right mind would either call the cops or make a few quick bucks on the black market.”

“Seems like I'm not most people.”

“So it seems. You knew I was here as soon as you came through the door. Maybe sooner. You shouldn't be able to do that.”

“Perhaps you just aren't as good as you think you are.”

The guy snorts; a small, unamused sound. Not ego, then. He clearly knows he's good at what he does, whatever that might be. He walks over to one of the windows, probably looking at that stupid billboard. The movement gives Matt considerably more to work with, but he's not really liking anything he's finding.

“Look, pal, I don't care about your vigilante activities and I'd really prefer not to kill you, so how about you just let me do what I came here to do and forget this ever happened?”

Shit. Fine, two can play that game.

“About thirty, give or take a couple years. Native New Yorker. Irish at that. Peculiar accent for someone of your age, if you don't mind me saying so. Approximately six feet tall, military posture, a lot heavier than you look for some reason, though you've been trained to tread lightly. Some kind of special forces, maybe, though the guns, the sneaking around and the non-regulation hair point towards assassin. There's something weird about your left arm, might be a prosthetic entirely, though if it is it's one of a kind, state of the art stuff. You have two guns and three knives on you and you're wearing some kind of light body armor.”

“This is the sound of me standing here in awe.”

“No, you aren't.”

“No, I'm not. Devil of Hell's Kitchen or whatever you're called. Funny story, when the Russians first started tittering about a guy in a black mask, I thought I was losing my edge and they meant me.”

“You realize I can't just let an assassin run around my city with a bag full of guns.”

“You realize you're just assuming I'm an assassin.”

“What are you, then?”

“Good question. A ghost, I guess.”

“You seem pretty alive and chatty to me.”

“Folks tend to end up quite dead and unchatty by the time I'm done with them.”

“Is that a threat?”

“Just laying out some facts. While we're talking, you wouldn't happen to know where the Ranskahov brothers have whisked themselves away now.”

“They're dead.”

“Great. Was that your doing?”

“Why, do you work for them?”

“Hardly.”

The blow, when it comes, is so out of the blue he barely manages to block it in time, but by then the guy is behind Matt with his left arm—yep, definitely some kind of prosthetic straight out of one of those crappy sci-fi movies Foggy is so inexplicably and unapologetically fond of—around Matt's neck. 'Ghost' is starting to make more and more sense; his guest certainly has the presence or lack thereof.

“Friendly advice,” says the guy, not the least bit winded, which is sort of insulting considering he's currently choking the life out of Matt. “Next time, just call the cops.”

 




He regains consciousness at some point, with a windpipe still intact to boot, which is the good news. The bad news is that the asshole really took apart the partition between his kitchen and hallway and he's still out there somewhere in Matt's city, now with a bag full of black market guns.

The Russians. He was looking for the Russians. A guy in a black mask, was it? He dimly remembers Vladimir calling him, among a lot of uncharitable things, a 'winter soldier.' What are you, some kind of winter soldier wannabe?

Matt has no idea what a winter soldier is, but he's going to find out. If nothing else, Goldilocks owes him a new wall.