When you find that one person who connects you to the world, you become someone different. Someone better. When that person is taken from you…
What do you become then?
That thought echoed in Kara's mind over and over. The bitter words kept playing on repeat, in a loop, a never-ending vicious cycle.
She'd said them six months ago. She had been angry, bereaved, most of all drunk. Alcohol normally dulled the pain of her existence, but whatever she drank that night brought all the memories back. Memories of when she'd still had Luther, when she knew what she was fighting for. Now she was a woman in mourning and a soldier without a battle to fight.
That had only just happened to her when she'd turned to the stranger next to her in some long-forgotten "speakeasy" bar and made that statement. She had a faint memory of scribbling it onto a bathroom wall, too. And now it never left her.
Back then, even though she was broken, she'd still held herself together. Made a few friends and talked to them; only drank when the pain got particularly bad. Lived in an adequate apartment, kept herself looking presentable.
Now Kara was alone, making a life on the street, her jacket and jeans oversized and threadbare. The hair she once kept at a modest length and tied back in a bun had grown long and scraggly- she'd lost the desire to cut or even brush it long ago. She just pulled her dull red beanie further down onto her head, even though she knew it would do nothing to improve the state she'd gotten herself into.
Were she her old self, she'd be smiling at strangers right then, maybe reading a book and thinking about her plans for the day. But now, there were only three things she was concentrating on- the bright light of the New York subway that added to her headache, the discomfort of her seat, and the small (nearly empty) bottle of whiskey inside her coat.
A lot could happen to a person in six months.
The subway came to a creaking halt, the door opening. Kara was grateful for the halt in motion- she was beginning to feel nauseous. Her eyes flit over to the two men who were engaging in a conversation not too far away from her. She barely caught on to one of the man's words.
"…Whatever he wanna do, you know?"
Then, four people stalked over to the other two men. Kara knew their type the moment she saw them- they were all either teenagers or in their early twenties. The ringleader had a silver necklace, and it was currently dangling from his mouth. All of them had sneers on their faces. They were entitled, that she knew. Self-assured, cocky. Punks.
The leader of the group purposely bumped into the man that had just been speaking. When he received a warning look from the older man, the kid taunted, "What? Hmm?"
The man lifted the hem of his shirt. Kara, along with the gang of punks, saw the unmistakable metal-gray handle of a gun.
The kid laughed. "Where'd you get that, in a cereal box? Huh? Wanna see a real gun?"
"Forget you," the man spat in response. He and his friend stormed out of the subway car.
Which was, of course, when the real fun began.
One of the ringleader's friends spoke up. His voice was deep, but not intimidating. Just… out of place. "Every little punk is carrying now, Anton." So that was the leader's name. "That's why your father wanted us to take the car home."
Anton waved his hand dismissively, shrugged. "Relax. We're picking up new hardware next week. Restore a little order."
He and his wolf pack started looking around the subway car. He was the one who fixed his annoying, self-assured leer onto her. "Besides," he drawled, stalking over to her, "when we take the car, we don't get to meet new friends. Like this girl." He smiled at her, glanced over his shoulder at his friends.
Kara knew what they were thinking. Granted, she didn't know whether they were planning to rob, assault, shoot, or do any other number of terrible things to her, but she knew they were looking for trouble. Lucky for her (and unfortunately for them, she thought,) they didn't know that, no matter what kind of state she was in, Kara Williams was always prepared.
That wasn't the name that had been put on her birth certificate, but after everyone she'd met and all the things she'd done, it was what she preferred.
Anton narrowed his eyes at her, laughed. She knew he'd seen her bottle of booze almost before he did. He reached out with his hand, tried to take it from her.
She was on him in an instant, having seized his wrist in a viselike grip. He gaped stupidly at her, his expression one of pure bafflement. To Kara, it was very satisfying. She gave him the slightest shake of her head, then let him go. He had her bottle in his hand, but she decided, what the hell, let him have it. It was almost empty, anyway.
Anton looked down at the tiny bottle that was now in his possession, raised an eyebrow. "Y'know, you didn't bring enough for the whole group."
Kara took a deep breath. He continued to creep closer.
"Looks like I have to teach you about sharing."
One of his lackeys, wearing a dark red shirt, advanced on her, raised his hand as if he meant to strike her.
Kara's instincts returned to her in a millisecond.
She grabbed the arm of her would-be attacker and yanked it in the wrong direction as hard as she could. He barely had time to cry out in pain before she was on his friends. She kicked the man behind him in the stomach, sent them both to the ground. Kara grabbed the head of Anton's deep-voiced friend, shoved him into a nearby pole. He slumped to the ground, out cold. She grabbed Anton by his throat, met his gaze for the briefest moment.
She wanted him to see the cold lack of emotion in her eyes. She knew, right away, that it terrified him.
And Kara was fine with that.
It was all over in a span of about 30 seconds. And unbeknownst to her, someone was watching her from behind an endless array of cameras, and he had just narrowed his eyes- one blue, one green- at her in interest.
Kara sat down behind the metal table, turned a plastic cup over in her fingers. She saw Anton and his lackeys hunched on a bench, looking terrible. It was enough to bring a satisfied smirk to her face, even though she was in a police precinct, about to be "talked to". In other words, interrogated, but more subtly.
She saw the detective meet her gaze through the window. Young, but not overly. He was probably in his late twenties, or early thirties, like her. Flyaway dark hair. Skinny limbs. Brown eyes. Something about him told Kara he was a hotshot. Not reckless, but the hell-bent type. Intuition was a powerful thing, and it had always run overtime within her.
The doorknob clicked, the door swung open, and skinny hotshot detective entered the room. Kara didn't look up at him, just fiddled with the cup in her hand.
The detective chuckled. "You know, you could've done me a favor and let those guys land a couple more punches." She said nothing, rolled her eyes.
"Question for you," he said quickly, leaning across the table as he sat. "Looking at that tape, I'd say you spent some time in the service."
He won the award for stating the painfully obvious.
Then he smirked. "But you don't learn how to fight like that in the regular army." Well, at least he wasn't completely stupid. "So, what were you? Special Forces? Delta?"
Kara glanced up at him for half a second. He smiled and nodded. She looked back down at the cup, turned it over in her fingers again.
When he walked over to the water cooler, she let her eyes follow him. He filled a cup with water, slid it across the table to her.
"You know, you didn't give us a name. I'm Anderson."
She raised an eyebrow. "Yeah, it's funny. Seems like the only time you need a name these days is when you're in trouble. So…" she paused, tilted her head, smirked. "Am I in trouble?"
Anderson shrugged. "I don't know; you tell me. You're the one living on the street," he said, giving her a meaningful look. He paused, cleared his throat. "Making that transition back can be tough, trust me. Some guys I knew got a little lost, needed a little help adjusting. You, uh… you need some help?"
She set the empty cup down, sipped from the one he'd given her. And still she said nothing.
Anderson continued, "Of course, some other guys I knew," he took the cup she'd been playing with, "they'd done so many evil things, they felt like they needed the punishment." He grabbed a remote, switched on the TV in the room. The screen depicted her fighting with Anton and his cronies.
"That sound more like your story?"
Connor Anderson watched the crime lab technician run the prints from the cup he'd taken from their mystery woman. She'd said little, but knew that if looks could kill, he'd be dead right then.
"Whoa, whoa," the technician suddenly said. "Your gal's prints were found in half a dozen crime scenes over the years. Open warrants in four different countries." Connor's eyes widened as the technician gave him a shocked look. "Who you got down there, Anderson, the angel of death?"
Unbeknownst to him, a lawyer had just arrived, and was pointing at her. "I'm here for my client."
Kara walked away from the precinct with the lawyer beside her. "I appreciate the help, counselor. But who's picking up… the tab?" She stopped short when she realized she was standing in front of a large black car with two men in front of it.
The taller of the men opened the car door. "Our employer wants to have a word with you."
Meanwhile, a certain detective had just run out of the precinct, looking around. But by the time he realized what had happened, the car had taken off.
The car didn't stop until the sun was rising and the Manhattan skyline was in view. The tires came to a halt under the Queensboro Bridge, and she got out of the car. So did the security guards. One of them nodded his head in the other direction, and so she turned to look.
A man was standing by the river, eyes fixed on the skyline. He was tall, fairly muscular. Not a giant, the way… the way Luther was, but looked strong enough. Kara walked towards him.
"Do I owe you money?" she asked, stopping behind him. "Cause I'm, uh… I'm running a little short at the moment."
The man turned to look at her. His eyes were faraway, deep-set. One of them was blue, the other green. Odd, but…striking. When he spoke, his voice was calm yet firm. "You don't owe me anything, Ms. Williams."
How did he know her name?
"That is the name you prefer, isn't it? I know you've had several," he said evenly. "Don't worry, I'm not gonna tell anybody about you."
Kara's eyes narrowed. "You don't know anything about me."
He turned his gaze back towards the river. "I know exactly everything about you, Ms. Williams. I know about the work you used to do for the government. I know about the doubts you came to have about that work. I know that the government, along with everybody else, thinks you're dead."
Kara started to walk closer to him, agitated. The security guards advanced on her, she saw from the corner of her eye, but their boss motioned for them to back off. She was standing next to him when he spoke again.
"I know you've spent the last few months trying to drink yourself to death." He paused, sighed. "I know you're contemplating more efficient ways to do it. So you see, knowledge is not my problem. Doing something with that knowledge… well, that's where you'd come in." He turned to face her. "And you can call me Mr. Finch."
When she nodded, he continued. "I think you and I can help one another. I don't think you need a psychiatrist or a support group, pills…"
He looked at the ground.
"What do I need? You know so much, then you tell me."
Mr. Finch glanced back up at her. "You need a purpose. More specifically, you need a job. Allow me to explain."
Kara walked the crowded New York street, rain pouring down on her, Mr. Finch at her side. They stopped at the side of the road for a moment, watched the pedestrians rush by.
"Eight million people," Finch said. "You know what they all have in common? None of them knows what happens next." He paused, cleared his throat. "Someone is murdered in New York City every 18 hours. By the end of the day, one of these people will be gone."
Kara shrugged. "Bad things happen to people every day. You can't stop that."
"But what if you could?" he questioned. "Not the things that happen in the heat of the moment. But so many crimes are planned days, weeks in advance. What if you could stop those?"
She raised an eyebrow at him, commented dryly, "Let me guess. You're a psychic."
Mr. Finch chuckled. "No, no. No psychic, no magic. None of that." He paused, wrung his hands together as they walked. He had a limp, she noticed. "It's funny, when I was a kid, I wanted a jet pack, I wanted a summer house on Mars. Then I realized I was living in the Information Age. This was a disappointment to me until I realized how revolutionary it was.
"All of us are leaving a trail of information in our wake. Most of it's useless. But there's something hidden in all that mess. A faint outline of things to come." He paused, looked down at his shoes, then back up at her.
"The right person in the right place with the right information could change everything. And that is the problem I have, Ms. Williams. I've got a list. A list of people who are about to be involved in very bad situations. Murders, kidnappings." He looked away. "
"The people that are on my list, they have no idea that anything's about to happen to them. Most of them are just ordinary people." Suddenly he tilted his head up, and Kara realized he was looking elsewhere. "Like her."
Kara's eyes followed his. A young brunette woman was standing at a food truck, smiling at the employee that had just handed her a cup of coffee.
"Her name is Diane Hansen," he went on. "And this week, she's at the top of my list. I don't know what exactly is going to happen, or what her role in it is." They both watched her walk away down the street.
"She might be the victim. She could be the perpetrator. All I know is that she's involved. I want you to follow her, figure out what's going to happen, and stop it from happening." He gave her an inquiring look, the faintest of smiles on his lips. "So, what do you think?"
Kara gave him a harsh glare. "In all honesty, Mr. Finch, I think you're just a bored rich guy. I think that woman's probably your ex-wife or someone you rode in an elevator with once. And either way, I think I'm done."
She turned to leave. One of Finch's security guards blocked her path, but she punched him in the face, shoved him aside, and kept going. Finch and his guards watched her leave, stunned silent.
Kara studied her reflection in the dingy motel bathroom mirror, running her fingers through her newly cut and dyed hair. The long, scraggly, dull brown mess that used to be her hair was gone. In its place was a dark blonde pixie cut. The dye job wasn't the best, she knew, but it looked pretty okay considering she'd bought it from a box at a dollar store and applied it herself.
Satisfied, she turned and walked back into the main room, collapsed on the bed just as the TV switched to a news story.
"Tonight, police are looking for a homeless woman for further questioning. The unidentified woman was originally believed to be the victim of a violent assault on a subway. But now police consider the woman a person of interest in a number of crimes nationwide."
Kara rolled her eyes, took a swig from a beer bottle, changed the channel. Cops were idiots. Too tied down by rules to get anything done. But then again, she'd left her old life for the opposite reason: Not enough rules.
When she allowed her eyes to close for the night, Kara had no idea what would change when she opened them in the morning.