Chapter 1: Chasing Shadows
Peter looked down at the mugger that he had webbed up. The man had done a number on the unconscious victim also in the alleyway. Peter knelt beside the victim and rummaged through the papers that were now strewn about the pavement, getting wet by the cold, misty New York morning. If he hurried and didn’t take his time here, he could make it to Midtown in just enough time to be in his seat before the first bell rung. He couldn’t afford to be late today. There was a big test that he couldn’t fail first period… But he couldn’t let this one go. Usually he left a note behind for the police to take the guys in but this time it was different.
The mugging wasn’t normal. He hadn’t been doing this for more than year, but he knew enough about mugging patterns by that point. They were random more often than not and they were hardly ever personal. This particular one was different. It didn’t follow the usual pattern. The mugger knew his victim and hadn’t been after anything. This… this was a hit, and he had to know why. If something was brewing in his city, he had to know about it.
He picked through the papers absently. It was weird thought… His city. It had always been his city in the sense that it was his home and where he had grown up, for better or worse. But when did New York become his problem? He picked up a stapled bundle of the paper. The bottom sheet was a destroyed, but the others were fine. He flipped through it absently. He knew the answer to that question. It became his problem when his uncle died in his arms. He had taken up the responsibility of protecting New York on that night. “You wouldn’t understand,” he said to the downed mugger, who returned his words with an angry and pained grunt. Peter tapped the man with his foot. It wasn’t hard enough to hurt, but it was hard enough to tell the man that he better not try anything. In the distance, he heard the police sirens. Someone in one of the nearby buildings must have heard the commotion and called the cops. That was he cue to get out of there. He sighed and webbed the packet to the wall. They would know what to do with it.
He took one last look at the paper and cocked his head when he recognized a name on it. “Fisk…?”
“Spider-man! Put your hands up!”
Peter groaned and complied. He didn’t need bullets flying everywhere; not when there were civilians who couldn’t dodge. “Captain Stacy!” he greeted. “Long time, no see! How are ya?”
“On your knees!” Stacy snapped, aiming his gun for Peter’s chest.
Peter suppressed a sigh and he was glad for the mask hiding his face. The last thing he needed was the police captain seeing him with an attitude. “Wish I could, sir, but you see… I’m late.” He knew Stacy wouldn’t fire. There were two people in the alley who could get hit. No one wanted any stray bullets hitting anyone. “I think this was a hit,” he said and fired a web, yanking up and out of sight.
Now he was going to be late. It didn’t matter how quickly he could cross from one end of Manhattan to the other; he wouldn’t make it in time. He let his body fall into the regular and all too familiar motions as he tried to sort through what he had learned. He hadn’t gotten much from the papers. Someone was working for or with Fisk. What he didn’t really understand was why anyone would be going after the man. Sure, he was rich and powerful, but as far as Peter knew, the guy was as straight an arrow as one could be while still being ridiculously wealthy.
He shot a web and yanked up, propelling himself over a building with grace and ease. His powers still amazed him. Even though he had gotten used to it, when he leapt over buildings with the grace of a gazelle, he still couldn’t believe that these powers were his.
He’d have to do some research about Fisk and why anyone would be going after his workers for any reason. It was possible that Fisk had nothing to do with the hit. Maybe the victim had stolen the mugger’s girlfriend and now he had a score to settle. It didn’t matter, he supposed. Wrong was wrong for any reason; he just wanted to know what that reason was. Maybe it wasn’t his place to find out, but it beat studying for the math test he had tomorrow…
Test! He landed on the back of the school yard on the football field just as the bell rang out, signaling the beginning of the day. He cursed as he ran to the gym locker room to throw on some clothes the he stored there over his suit. In his rush, he almost forgot to remove the gloves as he raced through the halls. Maybe his science teacher would have mercy. He was only a few minutes late. He couldn’t afford another tardy. If he got detention, Aunt May would ground him; and for him, grounding had a few extra connotations.
He ran through the halls and skidded into his classroom while his teacher had her back turned to the class. She was writing the start time on the board and he snuck as quiet as a mouse to his seat. Harry Osborn eyed him as he did. Peter offered him a guilty grin and Harry lifted an eyebrow.
“Mr. Parker,” the teacher said without even turning. “Fashionably late, as per usual.” Peter said nothing electing instead to push out a small cough. “I’m glad you take your education so seriously.” She turned around. “Office, now.”
“Mrs. Castle…” Peter started as he stood. He knew he wasn’t getting out of this, but he had to try, at least. I was stopping a murder! He wanted to shout out the truth, but he didn’t. Life had taught him that he needed to keep everything on the downlow about his powers. No one else needed to know. He couldn’t afford to let anyone else find out. His problems were his alone.
He walked towards the front of the class to receive his referral while someone whistled the Funeral March quietly under their breath. Peter passed Gwen Stacy’s desk as he did. She offered him a sympathetic smile and he took it with a small nod. He grabbed the blue slip from his teacher’s hand gently, trying not to offend in any way.
“Peter,” she said quietly, “you are a brilliant kid. Don’t throw it away doing whatever you’re doing.”
He looked down at the slip and smiled sheepishly before turning and heading back to his seat to gather his things. He prepared himself to hear the same speech from the principal. He had heard it all before. He was a good kid. He had a mind that he shouldn’t waste. He was gifted and he needed to take his education seriously. He’d never get into college with how he was going. He listened to the principal use those same arguments before he was sentenced to detention for the remainder of the period. He wouldn’t mind the detention if May hadn’t been called. Now he would have to deal with that on top of everything else.
When the bell rang, Peter walked out of detention and ran straight into Harry. “I smoothed things over with Mrs. Castle,” he said as he helped Peter pick up the books he had dropped upon collision. “She’ll give you a chance to retake that test.”
Peter laughed. “You are a Godsend,” he said with a smile. Harry patted him on the back. “Thank you.”
“No problem. Where were you this morning? I called to ask if you needed a ride, but May said you were already gone.” Peter’s sour mood dampened more at the mention of his aunt. He hated that he had probably made her worry. Everything about being Spider-man made her worry. She hated that he was out at all hours and his grades were slipping and he couldn’t keep a job to save his life. She probably thought he was getting into drugs. Spider-man is a drug, he thought.
“I just… walked…” Peter said with a shrug.
“You walked?” Harry gasped. Peter gave him a half grin. “Peter, next time just wait for me to pick you up.” Peter smiled fully. He didn’t know where he’d be without Harry at this point. He was a good anchor in his life. He spent so much time protecting other people, it was good to have someone that worried about him so much, but he also didn’t have to worry so much about.
The two said their good-byes and he went to his classes until the bell rang, signaling lunch. He moved quickly to the cafeteria. It was better for him to be seated in his spot before Flash Thompson got there. He’d rather not deal with that right now. He got his food and moved to his spot, keeping his head down until Harry sat on the other side of the table. Neither spoke as they ate their food. It was just enough to be in each other’s company.
Peter poked at the freeze dried, rehydrated mashed potatoes on his plate before looking up at Harry. “Do you know anything about Wilson Fisk?” he asked. Harry nearly choked on his food. “Sorry…”
He shook his head, grabbing his water to steady himself. “Y-yeah, no… no problem.” He swallowed a large gulp of water. “Why do you want to know about Mr. Fisk?”
Peter shrugged. “No real reason,” he lied. He hated lying to his friend, but he needed to start researching this. Someone was trying to kill someone else and he was the best person to try and stop it. “I’m just doing a paper on him and thought maybe you might have some insider information.”
Harry shrugged. “I don’t know much. Dad keeps his personal and professional business separate. I think they are working on negotiating some contracts for some land on the bay. Fisk wants to secure building contracts for some warehouses, I think, and dad’ll give him some space in a few of them for a lower price.”
“Land?” Peter asked, shaking his head. Could this really be about some land deals? Before Harry could answer, his phone rang. He smiled apologetically at Peter and took the call. Peter tried not to eavesdrop. If it was something he needed to know, Harry would tell him. After a moment, Harry stood from the table and moved to the side away from all the noise. Just as soon as Harry got up, Peter’s spider senses went up, but it wasn’t high. He didn’t dodge the water bottle that was hurled at his head. Sometimes he needed to take a few hits. A year ago, he couldn’t dodge those hits. He shouldn’t be able to dodge them now.
“Hey, Parker!” Flash boomed, sitting beside him and pulling him close as he put his arm over his shoulder. “How’d your test go?” His group of jocks laughed at the joke that wasn’t even that funny.
“It’ll go pretty well tomorrow,” Peter grumbled. “How’d yours go? Did all that tutoring help?”
The good humor in Flash’s eyes faded and his grip got firmer. “You think you’re funny, Parker?”
“No,” Peter grumbled. The last thing he needed was to get into a fight. He really didn’t need another referral today. Flash’s grip on his shoulder got tighter. Peter gave him a pity wince so that he thought he was doing something.
“You wanna meet me out back?”
“Hey, Flash!” The boys turned to a girl with platinum blonde hair walking towards them. “Why don’t you and I head out. You’ve got an English test next period, don’t you?”
Flash narrowed his eyes. “Need a girl to fight your battles, Parker?”
“I’m not embarrassed by that,” Peter said. Flash smiled at him and patted his shoulder before standing.
“Library?” he asked Gwen. She nodded and he started for the door, his group following in tow.
“You okay?” she asked.
“Yeah…” He avoided her gaze. “Thanks.”
She smiled. “Don’t mention it.” She waved him off and trailed after Flash and his group. Peter rubbed his shoulder. The move wasn’t because Flash had managed to hurt him. It was more for show than anything else. He rested his head on the table and waited patiently for Harry to return. His food remained untouched until the bell rang. The cafeteria went into an organized frenzy and he watched the others move around before Harry came back to pick up his tray.
“Anything exciting happen?” he asked Peter. He only got a shrug in response. Harry knew that Flash had probably bothered him while he was alone. He didn’t want to admit that Gwen had to assist in that. He could take Flash in a heartbeat. He could do all these things, but he didn’t. He had chosen to remain the weak, pathetic kid instead of using his powers for personal gain. He finally looked up at Harry and noticed that his friend’s face was paler than usual.
“Harry? Everything okay?”
“Yeah… no, not really…” he said. “That was my dad. One of his employees was attacked by an assassin and Spider-man this morning…”
Peter hadn’t been able to focus on anything throughout the rest of the day and he was worried that his grades had suffered for this, but how could he? He was now a suspect in the assault and attempted murder of one of Mr. Osborn’s employees. He wanted to talk to Harry about it, but he didn’t know how to breech the subject. He wanted to go to Harry’s house that afternoon, but he knew he needed to go home. May was going to kill him and he’d rather deal with that. After he had changed out of his clothes and got his suit on, he snuck out of the school yard and took to the buildings.
How had this happened? He knew that the police didn’t exactly like him, but they had never tried to pin an assault on him. He clenched his fists as he fled through the air. While his mind worked on that, another part tried to come up with a good excuse as to why he was late this morning. May wouldn’t buy any of it, but he wanted to try and offer her something; anything to put her mind at ease. Ever since Ben had died, she had been a wreck whenever he didn’t come home, or whenever he came home in pain.
While his mind was busy, his spider senses shot up to about an 8. He didn’t have time to dodge the incoming attack that disrupted his flight pattern and sent him hurling into the nearest building. He slammed into the wall and then hit the ground hard. He didn’t even see what had hit him. He stood slowly and looked for the person who had came after him, but he saw no one.
His senses spiked and he wheeled around in time to dodge the end of a spear. He leapt away from his attacker and landed to face her. He was surprised that she was in fact a female. He hadn’t seen too many of them in his battles thus far. She was wearing a rather plain, black suit with her black hair pulled back in a ponytail. She looked young; only a few years older than him and her face was partial obscured by a white hand print over the right side of her face. “Hey, whoever you are—” he started, but she moved like any trained fighter and swung the spear at him. He backflipped back, bounding away from the attack.
She was fast; he’d give her that, but she didn’t seem to have the powers he did. What she did have, though, was either bravery or stupidity, because she kept coming after him. He jumped away from the tip of the spear, but she outmaneuvered him. He was still getting the hang of fighting people who could fight back. His usual targets of muggers and petty thieves didn’t usually put up much of a fight. This woman, however, was determined to unbalance him. He shot web globs at her, but she pranced around them like a ballerina. They danced, but he didn’t even know why they were fighting. “Look, lady, whatever I did, I’m sorry!” he snapped just before she landed a punch to his face. He was sent into the wall. The punch was harder than he had been expecting. Beneath that suit, she must have had some powerful muscles.
She fought well and what was worse, she fought like him. Everything about the way she moved was reminiscent of his fighting style, mixed with advanced martial arts and dancing. She was light on her feet. As he dodged another kick, he realized that she was herding him into an alleyway. He tried to dodge away, but she blocked him with the spear and threw him back, where he summersaulted on the cold pavement. The way she had nothing to say unnerved him. She had hardly even made a sound since their fight had started.
He looked up the sides of the buildings on either side of them. It seemed odd that she would herd him this way. He could easily escape the onslaught and she would never be able to traverse the steps of the fire escape in time to catch him. He kicked out, sending his attacker back several feet. “Sorry, but this is tedious. And I’m late!” he added, hoping she didn’t mind that he was ducking out early. He jumped onto the wall and crawled up, keeping his body tightly close to the bricks. He expected her to shout out in annoyance, but she remained as silent as she had been since their fight started.
He pulled himself onto the rooftop and crouched, panting. That could have gone better. He looked down at the alley to find that his assailant had gone. He shook his head slowly. Whatever she had wanted, clearly it hadn’t been important enough for her to stick around. He sighed and looked up at the sky. It wasn’t getting dark yet, so he figured he could make it back and be able to blame it on a delayed subway or bus.
As he stood up and prepared to fire a web, a warped voice spoke to him from the roof on the other side of the alleyway. “Fisk sends his regards,” the mechanical voice hissed. Peter’s senses sprang to the point where it physically hurt, and the roof was suddenly ablaze with machine gun fire. Peter didn’t get a good look at this new attacker before he was forced to dodge a hail of bullets. Now he knew why she had herded him into the alley. She had wanted him on the roof.
He ran towards the edge of the roof and just as he lunged off the roof, a bullet tore through his shoulder. He shouted, but tried to ignore the pain. He didn’t want to be around to see who had set up the trap. He fired a web and yanked. Black dots sprang into his vision as another bullet ripped through his leg. Unable to keep up the swinging, Peter fell to the ground and half ran, half fell forward. All thoughts of Aunt May and how late he was, or the tests he had done today and would do the next day faded from his mind. Somewhere deep down, he knew his attackers weren’t following him. Not many people survived one gun shot, let alone two. The good thing about being so new to this game was that not many people knew how he worked.
The bad thing was that he was inexperienced enough to be lured into traps and shot at.
Peter stumbled and fell over a laid-out trash bag in another alleyway. He didn’t move. Already his healing factor was working on the entrance and exit wounds of the bullets, but the blood loss was disconcerting. He tried to stand, but he slipped on his own blood that had mixed with the water on the ground. He hit the ground hard and remained there. I’ll just… rest my eyes for a minute… he thought drowsily. As he closed his eyes, he felt his phone vibrate in its pouch.
Chapter Two: I'm So Used to Being in the Wrong
Fisk clenched and unclenched his massive fists as he stared out the window of his office. The alleged hit this morning hadn’t shaken him, but it had annoyed him. Already people were trying to stop this deal between him and Osborn. It made sense, but that didn’t mean he liked it. The construction contracts were in Hammerhead’s territory and he didn’t like the fact that Fisk was getting his hands on land that wasn’t his territory.
The pen clicked in his hand as he stared out. He should have given up his life of crime long before now. He had promised her; but it was hard. The more he tried to do things by the book, the harder it became. He sighed and looked away from the window, only to find himself standing face to face with a white masked figure with red eyes. He wasn’t shocked or annoyed by this figure, crossing his massive arms to study it. The figure was wearing white armor with a hood over the mask.
“Spider-Man is taken care of,” Ghost said.
Fisk looked behind Ghost, then to the floor by his feet, and then he shook his head with a soft tsk. “Where is the body?” he asked. Ever since this spider themed boy who called himself a hero had come onto the scene, it was becoming harder to follow all the rules of the law. He hadn’t wanted to get the Spider-man’s attention if he could avoid it.
“He was shot multiple times…” Ghost explained. “His body is probably in an alley, waiting to be picked up by the trash collectors.”
He wanted to laugh at his naïve assassin. She was good at what she did, but she also wasn’t used to metahumans. “He isn’t dead until I have his body at my feet!” he snapped. “Your job is not finished!”
“He is dead,” Ghost argued.
Fisk clenched his fists as his anger rose. Spider-man had done a number on his business without even realizing it. He hated to know what that child would do if he knew what he was fighting. “Bring me his body.”
Ghost nodded slowly and turned, ghosting with the movement. It was odd to watch the assassin move. Every move she made left an echo of where she had been. It was reminiscent of when someone closed his eyes against a bright light and the imprint was left on his eyes for a moment. He knew Ghost meant well, but he wanted her to understand that the job would not be finished until he saw Spider-man’s body and he had burned it. That was the only way to be sure that he wasn’t coming back. As Ghost started for the door, a curtesy that she used merely for his comfort as she didn’t need one, it opened, revealing his other worker. All his anger melted away at the sight of the girl in the doorway.
He smiled. “Good evening,” he said, moving his hands in the signs for the phrase. His massive arms were not made for American Sign Language, and it was unneeded with her lip-reading ability, but he still did it for the same reason that Ghost used doors when he didn’t need to.
She moved her hand to imitate the Spider-man’s webbing motion and then she held her left hand palm down while her right was palm up before swapping the palm positions by rolling her wrists. The movements were accompanied by a questioning look on her face. “Is Spider-man dead?” she signed.
Fisk shook his head slowly. He didn’t know how to explain that Ghost thought she had done the deed correctly, but he doubted it in sign. He had practically raised the girl, but he didn’t know the more complicated signs. “I don’t think so,” he said, making sure he was facing her so she could read his lips.
She rolled her eyes.
“Tell her it will be done,” Ghost snapped before walking out in a huff. She didn’t bother to use the door this time. She just passed through the wall as if it weren’t even there. Fisk sighed. She was angry that he doubted her. But he had to be diligent. Spider-man had appeared one day and they needed him to disappear.
Fisk turned back to the deaf girl. “He will,” he said to her with a slow nod. “Don’t worry… he will.”
Peter opened his eyes slowly. Everything hurt. His muscles were sore and his body bruised. Because his powers had more pressing injuries to heal, the bruises he had gotten from the fall weren't on the priority list; which meant that while he hadn't bled out while unconscious, he didn't feel much better than when he had passed out. Every bone and all joints were stiff and pained. The chill in the air did nothing to help his aches and pains. He slowly lifted his body to his hands and knees. It was dark, but the clouds in the sky prevented him from seeing how late it really was.
He rocked back to sit on the wet ground and cradled his throbbing head. That really could have gone better. He should have tried harder to fight that silent woman. He looked at the blood that covered his suit and sighed. He'd have to wash it again without turning everything red this time. He could use the shower. Luckily, he had an older suit still.
There was a buzzing and his first thought was his senses. He tensed and looked around, but no one was there. Fisk sends his regards... did Fisk believe that he had tried to kill that man? He had tried to build a reputation for Spider-Man that would prevent this from happening. His alter ego didn't kill; but the police and the media were determined to soil the good name he was trying to build.
The buzzing started again, and he realized with a jolt that it was his phone going off. He cursed and pulled it out. It was lucky to have survived the fall with only a new crack on the screen. He had missed the newest phone call and his eyes widened as he realized how many he had actually missed. He scrolled through the dozens of calls from Harry, Aunt May, Mr. Osborn, even Gwen Stacy and a few numbers that weren't programmed into his phone. Those probably belonged to police
He gripped his phone and bowed his head, feeling awful. May was probably freaking out. The worst part about it was that all her images of him lying face down in an alley, shot by some criminal were true. That was exactly where he had been, and if he didn't have powers, they'd be finding his body here soon. He sighed and went to call May. She had to be the first person he called. He was okay and she needed to know that.
As he went to dial her number, his phone rang again. Harry. He answered. "Hey..." he whispered.
Harry gasped on the other end. "Peter? Oh, thank God! Are you okay?"
He rubbed his head. Even Harry sounded like he was worried sick about him. Had he been... crying? Peter decided to believe he was imagining how raw his friend's voice sounded. "Y-yeah, I'm fine," he said, trying not to sound like his head was splitting open and his muscles had been put through the wringing.
Harry took a deep breath. "Pete... do you have any idea what time it is?"
Peter looked up at the sky. The moon was still blocked out, leaving him to wonder why that even mattered. He was already late for dinner. Why did it matter how late? "I dunno... eight or nine?"
"It’s almost one, Peter!"
Peter froze and his mouth went dry. One? He looked down at his phone and sure enough, the time read 12:52. He hadn't noticed it through the mass amount of calls. He had been unconscious for over six hours. It was a miracle no one had tried to unmask him and it was a good thing he hadn't been carrying anything on his person.
"Where are you?"
He looked around and realized with a sickening jolt that he didn't know the answer to that question. "I... I'm not sure..." he admitted sheepishly. Now he was glad that it was Harry who got him first. Having to explain to May that he didn't know where he was would have been quite the issue.
"Stay where you are. I can track your phone now that I've got you on the line."
"Harry... I'll get home myself," he tried to reason. The last thing he needed was Harry's limo driver picking him up bloodied and fully costumed.
"You don't even know where you are!"
"It's not fine! You know your Aunt is worried to death, right? She's got half the New York City Police Department out there looking for you!" Peter rubbed his forehead with a soft groan. "Peter... what's going on with you?"
"Nothing. I just..." he didn't have a good excuse this time. The only way he could logically explain this was to pretend he had done it intentionally. He closed his eyes. "After everything that happened today, I just needed to clear my head, ya know? I turned off my phone and lost track of time..." He hated it. He hated that he had to make them believe that he had intentionally avoided everyone he cared about for several hours without so much as a single phone call or text. He had to make it seem like he was selfish and inconsiderate to them.
"Right..." Harry didn't believe him. He could tell that by his friend's tone.
"I'll get home myself, Harry," Peter insisted. Harry sighed deeply. he could tell that Harry didn't want to leave it at that, but Peter wasn't going to take no for an answer.
"Fine..." he said after a moment of silence. Peter went to hang up, deciding that he had made May wait too long already. As he reached for the end call button, Harry spoke again. "Pete... if you're in some kind of trouble, there are people out there who can help you."
Peter closed his eyes. "Thanks... I'll see you tomorrow..." He hung up and hung his head, hating himself and the people who had attacked him. With his stomach in knots, he stood, ignoring the pain and stiffness in his body, and dialed Aunt May.
She picked up before the first ring even finished. "Peter?!" She gasped and his stomach knotted even further. Unlike Harry, he could tell without a doubt that she had been crying. "Oh God, Peter? Are you okay? Where have you been?" Her voice was frantic, and it only made him sick to think that he was the cause of her concern.
"I'm fine, Aunt May," he said, trying to keep any soreness out of his voice. He'd rather her be furious at him than worried sick. "I'm sorry... I'm on my way home." And he was. After assuring her that he was fine, she reluctantly hung up and he was left with his own thoughts. As he swung through the area towards his house, he tried to come up with some excuse. He didn’t want anyone to think that he was just being selfish, but how else would he explain hours of radio silence? How else would he explain being out until one in the morning on a school night after being late to school that morning?
He landed on the apartment building across the street from his own. A few police cars were parked outside, and it reminded him of when he had come home the night Ben died. He sighed and walked to where he kept a backpack of clothes for times like this when he couldn’t sneak inside. He removed his suit fully and changed into street clothes. He sighed and jumped from the building. Landing sent a shock wave of pain from his ankles on up, but he gritted his teeth and moved forward without stopping.
The elevator ride to his apartment was painfully slow and all too fast at the same time. He didn’t want to face what he had done, but he also didn’t want May to worry about him anymore. As he stepped out of the elevator, he came face to face with Captain Stacy. Peter averted his gaze from the white-haired man staring down at him. “Peter,” he said with an accusing tone. Peter flinched.
“Hello, Officer,” he muttered, unsure if Gwen had ever introduced him to her father. He had had plenty of run-ins with Captain Stacy as Spider-man, but he didn’t want to say Mr. Stacy’s name without Peter Parker having a reason to know it.
Stacy crossed his arms and looked down at him. “You best get in there, son,” he said. Peter nodded and moved to walk past him, but Stacy grabbed his shoulder. “She’s been worried sick about you. I’m not going to ask what you’ve been doing out there, but you would do well to face what you’ve done.”
Peter looked up at him and offered him the smallest of smiles. Everyone at the station was aware of Ben’s death and how it had gone down for them. He was sure this was normal. Kids who lost their parental figure probably acted out. He didn’t know what else to say, so he just walked on by. Before he reached the door, he turned around. “Sir…?” he asked. He knew he shouldn’t bring this up, but he needed to know. “My friend, Harry Osborn, said that Spider-man attacked one of his dad’s employees… Is that true?”
Stacy crossed his arms and stared at Peter, making his skin crawl. Even though he hadn’t been at it for too long, he still felt awkward now when he was being glared at without a suit on. He felt naked. “We’re looking into it,” he answered.
Peter sighed. He knew he should drop it. “Do you think he did it?”
Stacy eyed Peter intensely. “Don’t worry, son, we’ll get him.” Peter tried to smile. Stacy waited a moment for him to respond before shrugging and turning to the elevator.
Peter tried to drop it. Now wasn’t the time to be dealing with Spider-man matters. Now he had to deal with what he had done. He took a deep breath and opened the door. He was greeted by his aunt standing in the foyer, pacing. She hadn’t noticed that he had come in. He watched her for a moment, pacing with her face covered in tears. She ran her hands through her silver hair, and he hung back. Facing muggers and criminals he could do… facing this wasn’t easy.
He coughed softly. “Aunt May…” She froze and then turned to him. He saw five different emotions pass through her face, ranging from anger to sadness to relief. Peter hung back until she came towards him. He remained frozen as she put her hands on his shoulders, holding him at arm’s length and studying his face. He felt the bruises on his cheeks throb and he hoped beyond reason that she didn’t see that he was hurt.
“Peter…” she breathed. She pulled him into a tight hug, and he bit back a gasp of pain. The last thing he wanted or needed was for her to know that he was in pain. That would only complicate the coming blowout. He leaned into her hug and closed his eyes. He wanted to tell her, but if he did, she would never stop worrying about him. He’d rather her worry about his mental health than worry about him walking out that door every morning.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered, hugging her tightly. The knot in his stomach tightened further when he realized that she was shaking. He hated himself.
They remained there for several minutes as she stroked his hair, comforting both of them. He wanted to stay there. He didn’t want to move on from this moment because he knew what would happen.
May broke away from him and he tried to hold onto her for a moment before he let her go. She held him back at arm’s length and he shifted under her gaze as her eyes passed over him. He avoided her eyes. “Peter…”
“I’m sorry, May,” he whispered. “I just…”
“No,” she snapped. He flinched. Here it comes… “Where were you, Peter? Where?”
“I’m sorry. I needed to clear my head, and I turned off my phone and lost track of time.” He waved to the door. “I didn’t mean to stay out this late.”
May looked at him and then she turned, running her hands through her hair. He followed her inside, keeping his head down. “You can’t do this, Peter! You can’t keep doing it! You’re out at all hours of the night! You can’t keep a job! Your grades are slipping!” She let out a choked sob and a lump formed in his throat. He hated that he had caused this. He hated that he had put Spider-man above the people in his life. “I’ve called five police stations! I thought you were dead! I kept seeing you—“ her voice broke, “—lying on the ground in a pool of blood! Where were you?” She ended in an almost hysterical shout.
Peter bowed his head, ashamed. The truth is, Aunt May, I was lying face down in an alley, shot in the dark by some criminal because apparently I’ve managed to get on Wilson Fisk’s hit list. Oh, did I tell you I’m Spider-man and every time I leave this house, my life is on the line? Did I also mention that it’s my fault you’re a nervous wreck? I could have saved Uncle Ben, but I didn’t. I looked away… And now you know why I can never look away again. That’s why I get out there every day and night, even though it hurts you.
He didn’t say that, though. He had to lie, instead. “I was just wandering the streets.” It was a lame excuse, but what else could he say? “And I lost track of time.”
May didn’t believe him. She rubbed the bridge of her nose and then wiped the tears from her cheek. Every move hurt his heart. “What’s going on with you, Peter?” she asked. “I called Harry and he said he didn’t know where you were, either. You’re not talking to him as much. He said he hardly knows you anymore!”
He bit his tongue. Harry didn’t know him anymore? Sure, they hadn’t hung out a lot in the past few months, but they were still friends… weren’t they? He realized with a jolt that he couldn’t remember the last time they had hung out outside of school. His stomach twisted further.
“Ever since Ben died…”
“This isn’t about Uncle Ben,” he said quickly, hoping that would dispel her worries. It didn’t help.
“Then what is it about?” May shouted. Peter took a step back. “What is it, Peter? Just tell me! I need to know because I want to help you! I can’t help you if you won’t tell me why you are doing this? I know it’s been hard without Ben, and the money, but this… this can’t happen anymore!”
Peter kicked the floor quietly. “I know,” he said quietly. “And it won’t… I promise.”
She shook her head. “Don’t make promises you don’t intend to keep,” she said quietly. She sounded so defeated and disappointed in him. Those words stung worse than the yelling she had just done. She waved her hand, sending him off. “Peter, I can’t help you if you won’t talk to me. What’s going on?”
“Nothing…” he muttered.
She huffed and turned her back to him. He knew she wanted him to open up. This had come to a head and she needed him to tell her why; but he couldn’t. “You are grounded until further notice.” He nodded. That was fair. “Go to your room, Peter.”
“Aunt May…” He didn’t know what else he could say, but he didn’t want to go to bed with her angry at him. There was no getting out of this. Even if he came clean now, it wouldn’t dispel her anger. Whether or not she was aware, she was better off believing that he had went out of his way to hurt the people he cared about. It was better that she thought he was still grieving about Uncle Ben’s death and the behavioral problems were brought on by that grief.
Peter nodded slowly and walked to his room, falling onto his small, twin bed. He didn’t even bother to get out of the clothes that he had changed in to. He felt like he was about to vomit. His muscles screamed. He was exhausted, but he couldn’t settle down enough to sleep. His mind was still reeling about everything. May was so angry at him and he could do nothing. His and Harry’s relationship was on the rocks, apparently. The police wanted Spider-man for questioning and Fisk wanted Spider-man in the grave… and someone was trying to kill Oscorp employees. He closed his eyes. The walls in their house were paper thin, and because of that, he could hear his Aunt cry herself to sleep.
One thing I really disliked in Hostile Takeover was how Maya never felt deaf. As someone fluent in ASL, I was happy to see a deaf character in a novel, only for it to play almost no role.
Chapter 3: I'm Tired of Caring
Chapter Three: I'm Tired of Caring
Peter opened his eyes. At some point, he figured he must have fallen asleep, but he didn’t remember when and for how long. The alarm going off hadn’t been what had woken him up. It started going off a few minutes after he woke up. He sighed and sat up on the bed, moving slowly to avoid hurting his already sore muscles. He walked silently to the bathroom and undressed slowly. His shoulder and leg were caked in blood and sweat. Tossing and turning the night before had reopened the wound a little, leaving a fresh coat on top of the other one.
He stepped into the shower and let the warm water hit his back. He stayed in longer than he should have to get the blood off. When he stepped out, he moved in a deliberate way. No movement was out of place. He didn’t want to waste any energy. He got dressed in a slow, methodical way, putting his older suit under his clothes. He didn’t want to think about having to be Spider-man today, but he knew the one time he didn’t bring his suit his school would be under attack.
The small apartment seemed even smaller as he stepped out into the main room. His eyes traveled slowly over the living and dining room area. May was sitting at the small table in the nook, poking at the wet cereal. A piece of toast was waiting for him on a small plate. He moved like someone approaching an injured animal. “Good morning,” he said quietly, sitting down across the table. “I…”
“I called Harry. He’s going to pick you up.”
Peter sighed. He didn’t want that. The last thing he needed was to be coddled and taken to school by his best friend. “Yes, ma’am,” he said. Arguing would be pointless. May needed him to go along with this to the best of his ability. He tugged at his collar. The older suit was itchy, but it was probably good that he put up the mask for a few days. The police were looking for him.
He ate and then stood, hurrying towards the door. “Peter.” He stopped by the door and smiled. “I love you. You know that, right?”
“Of course.” He flashed a smile at her. No matter how much they fought, they would always be okay. “I love you, too.” She laughed softly and he left, feeling sick to the stomach about the whole thing. May was a saint and he didn’t deserve her.
When he made it outside, he sat down on the curb and buried his head in his hands. He didn’t want to think about all the crimes he could stop on the way to school that that he now couldn’t because he now had to ride in a limo. It was hard convincing himself that it wasn’t his job to stop those crimes. No one had assigned him this position. If he had to believe that it was his job, he would have to believe that someone was pulling the strings of fate and had given him this job through that spider bite.
Speaking of the limo, he looked up as the black car turned onto his street. He grabbed his backpack and stood. The car parked on the curb and the driver stepped out. Peter looked down at the ground and waited. He didn’t need to, but it made Harry feel better if he acted the right way. It made him feel like he wasn’t a snob. He nodded to the driver as he opened the door and then he got inside. Harry was in there, working on studying math. Peter sat as far away as he could, looking down at the ground as the car pulled out.
For a while, the only sound in the car was the low hum of the vehicle and the jostling of potholes that this type of car wasn’t built for. Peter stared out the window. Everything about this was uncomfortable. People watched the car drive past them and all he wanted to do was curl up and die.
“Pete?” The breaking of the silence was jarring.
“Hm?” Peter asked without looking at him. Here it comes… again…
He sighed. “It was… nothing…” he said.
“It wasn’t nothing. You don’t do things like this.”
He clenched his fists. He needed a better excuse than what he had offered the night before. He sighed. Mentioning money problems wouldn’t go well with Harry. He’d offer to help pay, of course. But that seemed to be the best way to get out of this. Peter sighed. “I was investigating Fisk,” he admitted, deciding that it was close enough to the truth. “And Spider-man. The Daily Bugle is running some sort of junior reporter and photographer contest for a paid internship.” That much was true, at least. “I thought I’d try help out with the rent and stuff… A freelance photographing job would be better than trying to keep up an after school schedule… and I didn’t want to tell Aunt May because she would think all of this was her fault.”
Harry shook his head slowly. “I’m sorry,” he said quietly. Peter felt bad by bringing up money for the sole fact that it would shut Harry up. It was a miracle that he and Harry had managed to even be friends based solely on their class. He didn’t like using their money situations to make Harry uncomfortable, but he hoped that it would keep him from asking too many questions. This whole double life thing was something he still had to get used to. His plan, as usual, didn’t work. “If you need money—"
“You told Aunt May that you and I don’t talk anymore,” Peter snapped, cutting off Harry’s sentence. He knew that would only end in an argument. Of course, now he was starting a different one. He hadn’t planned on calling Harry out on ratting him out with May, but he’d rather do this than fight about money. “How could you do that, Harry? It’s just going to worry her more!”
Harry looked at him, stunned. “I… I was worried about you, Pete,” he defended. “You haven’t been… yourself in a while.”
“You could have told her that you and I were doing fine,” he said. He didn’t mean to sound bitter, but it came out that way. He hadn’t realized how mad he was about that. “We are… aren’t we?”
Harry sighed. “I don’t know…” he admitted. “I want us to be okay, but—”
“But nothing,” Peter snapped. He hadn’t meant to come back so angrily. He had planned on this part of the conversation to be calm. They were judging him based on what they knew. He should realize that they didn’t know the kind of pressure he was under. That should be his concern, but it wasn’t. They didn’t know and he didn’t care, because he knew what he was going through. It was frustrating that they didn’t. “What’s gotten in to you?”
“Me?” Harry shook his head, clenching his fists. “What about you? Pete, you’re disappearing all the time! You’re late for school! I’ve had to cover for you time and again at school and to your Aunt! And when you vanish for six hours and you are found with no idea where you are, like hell I’m going to lie to Aunt May and say that nothing is wrong; because there is, Peter!”
Peter turned away and looked out the window. “Nothing’s wrong,”
“Cut the crap,” Harry snapped. The two lapsed into silence for several minutes. Peter let it hang between them. “You can tell me anything, you know.”
He scoffed. If only. “I wish…” He swallowed his next words. He wished it were that simple, but it wasn’t. “I wish I could, Harry.” It was the closest he could get to admitting there was something wrong. He didn’t even like to think that Spider-man was wrong, but to them, it probably was. It was nice to have people who cared about him, and it tore him up to lie about it.
Luckily, at that moment, they pulled up to the school. Peter didn’t wait for Harry to say anything as he opened the door before the driver could even come to a complete stop. As he stepped out of the car, he caught a glimpse of the newspaper sticking out of the garbage can. On the front page was a blurred picture of Spider-man taken off of someone’s phone for sure. He grabbed the paper and clenched it in his hands as he read. Spider-Man Wanted the headline read. Joshua Henderson’s reports of being attacked and having his life threatened by an unnamed assailant and Spider-man have caused outcry in the public eye and the police force, with many calling for the vigilante to receive the justice he deserves. He is wanted for questioning. But the conversation has turned to a more pressing matter as people are questioning the validity and safety of these so called masked heroes and vigilante justice. Norman Osborn, who employs Henderson, has gone on record saying--
A hand grabbed his shoulder and Peter spun around with an angry yelp. He shoved Harry away, crumbling the paper in his fists as he did. “So, your dad’s spreading rumors about him?” he asked, unable to keep the anger from boiling over. Harry looked at him, confused.
“Forget it.” He ripped the front page of the paper in half and tossed it back into the trash can before storming into the building. He had already missed out on the chance to help people this morning on the way to school, and now he had to deal with whatever good graces he had been building with the police being dragged through the mud. He stopped at his locker and his senses shot up to a three. He rolled his eyes as he dodged an oncoming slap to the back of his head. “Not today, Flash,” he growled, moving out of the way.
The blonde boy smiled. “Aw, what’s the matter Parker? Not in the mood?”
Peter shook his head. “Not. Today.” He warned. Flash was either too stupid to heed the warning or he didn’t care, because he grabbed Peter’s shoulder tightly. Peter reacted faster than he should have. He grabbed Flash’s hand and spun, shoving him into the lockers behind them. The sound it made was deafening as the people around them paused their conversations to observe the brewing fight. “I told you not to do this today!” Flash stared at him for a moment, stunned. Peter had never been one to fight back; even after the bite. Standing up for himself would mean showing them that he could fight back now.
Flash moved quickly. Maybe it was because he saw Peter fighting back and he needed to assert his dominance; or maybe he was looking for a fight just as much as Peter had been. He grabbed Peter’s shoulder with one hand and punched him hard in the gut. Peter doubled over out of reflex. His fists clenched. Something in him snapped. He was someone with extraordinary power. He had been shot twice the night before and here he was, on his feet like nothing had happened. No one else that he knew could do that. He didn’t have to take this!
He grabbed Flash’s hand from his shoulder and squeezed hard. The bones in the hand creaked under the pressure. Peter took a step back and then yanked Flash towards him just as he brought his fist to Flash’s stomach. He didn’t need to take this anymore. He had been trying to make everything stay the same; but nothing was the same. It would never be the same. Uncle Ben was dead. He was a masked vigilante. His best friend thought he was going off the deep end. His Aunt was making herself sick with worry. His alter ego was a prime suspect in a hit.
With all that in mind, the punch that he delivered ended up being harder than he had intended. Flash went down to his knees hard, and Peter released his hand and watched him drop. It felt like it was happening to someone else. Flash was doubled over on his knees, holding his stomach. His face contorted in pain. Peter cocked his head, not really sure what he had done. By that point, they had garnered the attention of most the kids in the hallway. Students surrounded them and the more that showed up, the more Flash tried to pretend that he wasn’t in pain. He tried to stand and Peter took a step back to give him space, but he stumbled forward and went back to his knees. “Flash…?” Had he really hurt him? He couldn’t have hurt him that badly. He hadn’t meant to, at least. Flash began coughing.
Peter turned and pushed his way through the crowd of people, only to run smack into Gwen Stacy. He stammered as he backed away from her. This was the last thing he needed. “Peter? Are you okay?”
His mouth felt dry and he shook his head quickly, trying to make something that sounded like a coherent sound. “I didn’t mean it,” he managed to push out. He had just been tired of it all. He shook his head again. “I didn’t mean to hurt him!” Shoving past her, he hurried towards the exit. Footsteps behind him told him that he was being followed. Once out of the school, he grabbed his chest and tried to catch a breath as he leaned over the railing on the stairs. He wanted to jump and disappear into the city, but that would only make things worse.
A hand on his shoulder made him jump. His senses hadn’t warned him about that. He turned as Gwen came to stand beside him. “Hey…” he whispered.
“Hey.” She eyed him carefully. He hated that even she looked nervous around him. They hadn’t had too many interactions before now, but they had been in the same class for years and he had always had a bit of a crush on her. Spider-man had complicated things, though. Plus, he had always seen her getting together with Flash. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” he lied. He hadn’t meant to hurt Flash that badly, and he hoped that Flash wasn’t really hurt. He knew now he was in a lot more trouble, but that wasn’t his main concern. He really needed Flash to be okay. “Is he…?”
“I didn’t stick around long enough,” she admitted. She studied him closely. Peter looked to the ground. What was happening? How could he do something like that? Sure, maybe Flash deserved it, but he had attacked with his superior strength and that didn’t make him any better than the bullies he fought. He closed his eyes tightly against the sunlight. “You don’t look well, Peter.”
Peter froze. Of course Harry would get involved. When did he ever not get into his business? “I told you, I’m fine.”
Harry crossed his arms. “Fine isn’t how I would describe this.”
“What was I supposed to do?” he defended. “Continue to let him push me around?”
Harry shook his head and walked around Gwen to stand in front of Peter. “Since when do you hit people?”
“Since I get tired of being Flash’s punching bag!”
Harry was exasperated. He ran his hands through his curly hair with a long hiss and then turned back towards the entrance. “I want to help you, Peter, but I can’t if you won’t tell me what the hell is going on!”
Peter sighed. Maybe they thought he was getting involved in gangs or drugs or something. It probably made as much sense as him getting spider powers and fighting crime. He had already hinted that something was going on, but he couldn’t tell Harry about it. He should have kept his mouth shut about that. Maybe Harry thought that he was getting into something because of the money. “I can’t tell you,” he admitted quietly. Gwen looked between the two. “I wish I could, Harry… I really do.”
Harry sighed, shaking his head. Peter knew his friend didn’t need this in his life. Between Oscorp and Mr. Osborn, Peter was the only normal, non-complicated thing in Harry’s life. Now he was complicating their simple friendship with this thing that he couldn’t even mention. “I wish you could too, Pete.”
Peter looked up that the ceiling of the front office while Aunt May talked to the principal in his office about him. He was glad he wasn’t in there, but he wanted to hear what they were saying. Was she trying to explain his behavior, or was she just apologizing profusely? Flash had spent the entirety of first period in the nurse’s office and then he was taken out of school. Peter needed to try and call him later to make sure he was okay. He had only really used his strength to beat up thugs that he didn’t really care how well they faired afterward.
He flinched when the door opened and May stepped out with her purse on her shoulder. “Come on,” she said to Peter. It was his first offense in fighting, but the tardies and the skipped classes had accumulated into him getting suspended. He stood slowly and followed his Aunt out of the school. At least he’d have time to investigate Fisk and the assassination attempt while May was at the hospital working.
They got into the car and it took several minutes before she finally spoke up. “Peter… What happened?”
“I hit a bully,” Peter defended. He hadn’t wanted to lash out, but he needed her to understand that Flash wasn’t the innocent one here. “He hit me first and I retaliated. I’m the only one getting in trouble because I hit harder.” May sighed. He knew that sound. It was the one she made when she was disappointed with him
“Peter… you can’t just punch your way out of things.”
“Flash is a bully!” he snapped. “He’s been using me as a punching bag for years and the one time… the one time I fight back, suddenly I’m the bad guy!” His voice rose higher than he had intended. His suit was becoming itchier. He wanted to swing. “This is ridiculous!”
“No, what’s ridiculous is that I had to be called from my job because my nephew beat someone up at school and might have sent him to the hospital! Peter, what’s going on with you? You said you were going to be better.”
“I’m trying to be!” Peter snapped. “He hit me first!”
“That doesn’t mean you have to hit him back!” May retorted, raising her voice. Peter flinched back and turned to look out the window.
“I’m sorry,” he said after a minute.
May sighed. “I know you are. But Peter, whatever’s happening with you, you need to tell me, okay? This acting out can’t continue.”
Peter took a deep breath. “I want to get a job,” he said quietly. He needed an excuse to get out of the house. “The Daily Bugle is doing a contest for photography and I was wandering the streets last night hoping to get a picture of Spider-man. I didn’t want to tell you because I thought you would worry even more. When Flash lashed out, I was already on edge, and I lost control for a minute.”
May didn’t say anything for a while and he was beginning to think that this was worse than telling her that he was Spider-man.
“I know we need the money,” he offered.
She sighed deeply. “Peter… I don’t know what to say…”
“I want you to believe me,” he whispered. “I want you to understand that I didn’t mean to hurt Flash and I didn’t mean to hurt you. I’ve just been trying to get pictures and I thought the money was more important than my education.”
“Nothing is more important that your education,” May said. She gripped the steering wheel tightly. “When’s the contest due?”
He searched his memory. He hadn’t meant to try and get pictures of himself for the Bugle, but if it put her mind at ease, then he’d do just that. “Saturday.”
She nodded slowly. “Okay. Then you should get on that when you finish your homework.”
He turned to her sharply. “Really? Are you serious?” He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. May was actually going to let him get out there and take pictures? He wasn’t grounded anymore? Or maybe he was, but this was part of it.
“If it helps you, then I will allow it.”
The victory was bittersweet. She was only giving him slack on his leash because she thought he needed this for some mental health therapy. He decided to try his luck. He had to get out there and start trying to figure out what was happening between Fisk and whoever was trying to assassinate his and Mr. Osborn’s workers. “Can I… walk home?”
May took in a deep breath and slowed the car, pulling onto the curb. He stepped out before the car came to a complete stop. “Home by eight, Peter,” she warned.
Her words echoed in his mind as she drove off, leaving him on the sidewalk. Don’t make promises you don’t intend to keep…
Chapter 4: What the Blind Man Saw
Chapter Four: What the Blind Man Saw
Maya shook her head as she walked through the halls. Being in normal clothes always felt a bit strange now, but when she wasn’t gallivanting around as Fisk’s personal assassin and hand, she had to look the part of his assistant. She nodded to the people as they passed, not bothering to look at their mouths to even see if they were speaking. The steady vibrations of the floor told her that nothing was happening in the building. Neither she nor Ghost had found hide or tail of their spider themed vigilante. Even causing havoc in certain areas hadn’t dragged him out of hiding. Maybe Ghost had killed their little friend. Perhaps Fisk had been too quick to judge their erratic assassin. Just because she hadn’t brought in Spider-man’s body, that didn’t automatically mean she hadn’t finished the job. Maya understood Fisk’s caution, though. People had the habit of coming back from assumed death.
She hadn’t been happy when Fisk brought in Ghost for this new deal. It felt like he believed that she couldn’t handle herself out there. She had gone toe to toe with Daredevil and lived to tell the tale. This young brat wasn’t anything she couldn’t handle. Ghost also intimidated her. The way the assassin shifted and never really felt like she was there was unnerving. She also didn’t like that she had never seen Ghost’s face and everything she knew about what the girl said was translated from Fisk or a very basic understanding of American Sign Language. When she had voiced her opinion about the assassin, she learned that Ghost was Osborn’s employee, rented out to deal with their Spider problem.
She opened the door, making as much noise as she thought was enough to get Fisk’s attention. He lifted his head from his desk, proving that she had done a good enough job. “Good afternoon, Maya,” Fisk said with a smile. She returned it. Brutal as the man was, he could still win over a room full of people with that smile. She knew the kind of person who had raised her and she was, more or less, okay with it. He was gentle when he needed to be and ruthless when it was required. She had seen and accepted both sides of him.
She bowed her head slightly in greeting. “Mr. Fisk,” she said, pushing the words out of her mouth and moving her lips the way she had seen people do all her life. Sometimes she put her hands to her own throat to feel the vibrations to make sure she was actually speaking. She put down the folder she had been carrying on the desk and offered Fisk a pleasant grin. Fisk looked down at it, studying the things that she had brought him. The contract was moving forward between his industries and Oscorp. Everything would be moving smoothly if it weren’t for Spider-man and Hammerhead getting involved in everything. Sure, they were snatching up parts of the docks that, theoretically, belonged to Hammerhead’s gang, but he could do nothing about it without breaking the law; and no one wanted that.
Fisk always said that there can be no organized crime without law and order.
Suddenly Fisk flinched and whipped his head around. Maya looked in the direction Fisk was looking at and her eyes widened. There he was; their Spider problem knocking on the window. The audacity of it! Anger boiled within her and she couldn’t imagine how Fisk was taking it. Fisk looked over at Maya and then nodded to the window. Maya cocked her head before walking to the window and opening it. He was actually taking this rather well. Spider-man stepped into the room, but he at least had enough sense to stay near the window.
Fisk stood and Maya watched the masked man. He flinched away from the towering man walking towards him, but his muscles didn’t coil. Did he really not know who he was dealing with? His footsteps shook the floor, but he stopped without getting too close to Spider-man. Fisk was being respectable to their guest. Odd. Any other day, he’d be attacking the intruder by now.
“A pleasant surprise,” Fisk said. Maya moved to keep both of them in view, but even though she could see his mouth moving, the mask prevented her from reading Spider-man’s lips. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”
Spider-man took a step back, putting his back to the window. He moved his arms and by the way his jaw moved, he was explaining something quickly.
Fisk crossed his arms. “They failed to kill you, so I don’t see the problem.”
Spider-man waved his arm. Fisk nodded slowly. Spider-man pointed to himself and then the window. She followed where he was pointing and realized that he was gesturing to Oscorp. What did he want with Oscorp? Was he trying to tell them to leave it alone?
When she turned back, Fisk was smiling. “Then I believe I owe you an apology, Spider-man,” he said. Maya narrowed his eyes. Fisk didn’t apologize unless it benefited him. “But you and I seem to have a common enemy. But before we discuss anything, could you please remove your mask?”
Spider-man held up his hands and shook his head frantically. Apparently, he didn’t like that idea.
Fisk smiled. “Understandable. Then will you at least let me see your mouth? I don’t like talking to a mask.”
She looked back over at him and he seemed to be thinking it over. His jaw moved as he answered Fisk and then he reached up to remove his mask over his lips. Maya smiled slightly. Fisk had done it to allow her the chance to be able to see what their guest was saying and he had done it without giving away her deafness.
“Better?” Spider-man asked. She didn’t like his body language. He wasn’t cowering or acting humble in anyway. Fisk always talked about the tone that people used with him. She wondered how much he liked Spider-man’s tone. The boy probably didn’t know who he was speaking to. Fisk nodded. “All I want to know is who might be going after your men,” Spider-man said.
Fisk shook his head. “My guess would be Hammerhead,” he said. Maya didn’t move from where she was. She wasn’t sure what her boss was doing. Getting the Spider involved now would be a waste of time and effort.. They should be killing him. But his body language didn’t indicate that he wanted Spider-man dead.
He laughed. “You really are new to this,” he said with a grin. Maya knew it as a rather wicked smirk, but to the untrained eye, one might think he was trying to be humorous. “You have much to learn about this city. Either way, you and I have a common enemy. You want to protect this deal and I need someone to take down Hammerhead.” Spider-man nodded slowly. “I will get you all I can on it. What’s a good place to meet you?”
He turned away from them and spoke. Fisk nodded. “The docks it is, then.” He waved the boy off. “I will meet you in the morning, Spider-man.” He smiled. “It will be a pleasure working with you.”
The boy nodded and hurried out the window, pulling his mask down as he went. Maya turned to Fisk and put her hands on her hips. “Are you sure about this?” she asked. She knew the saying that people needed to keep their friends close and their enemies closer, but she didn’t like this idea. Spider-man may be new to the whole hero thing, but no one knew anything about him. He was young, but well built. She trusted Fisk, but she didn’t trust their new business partner.
Fisk smiled and reached forward, stroking her gently across the face where the handprint was usually painted on. “The boy doesn’t know right from left. He’s young. If he can keep Hammerhead busy, we can move on with this deal with Oscorp without worrying about Spider-man or Hammerhead’s gang getting in our way.”
He held up his hand, signaling that he had heard enough. She closed her mouth and pushed out air, hoping it didn't sound like an annoyed gesture. She had been told that she always had a habit of sighing too loudly when she was annoyed or frustrated with people. Fisk eyed her for a moment and she avoided his gaze. "If it bothers you so much, follow him."
Maya bit her lip and turned from him before he could mouth anymore orders. She clenched her fists as she walked out. She didn't trust Spider-Man. He would turn on them the moment he suspected anything was amiss in their company. She headed towards the elevator with her head held high. Following him would at least allow her to get out of this ridiculous suit.
Harry stepped out of the elevator and into the penthouse that he called home. For how large it was, they really didn’t need that much space. It was only him and his father, Norman Osborn, living there now. Harry didn’t remember his mother much, but he remembered the penthouse being a lot livelier when she was alive. He sighed and tossed his backpack onto the couch. “Dad?” he called. "I'm home." Not that it matters...
Norman stepped out of his bedroom, fixing his tie as he did so. “Good afternoon, Harry,” he said. Harry gave him a small wave and fell onto the couch after his bag, hugging a pillow like a child would hug a stuffed animal. After the day he had, he felt like a child. Norman looked down at him as he turned on the TV and then turned the volume to zero; something he didn’t do often anymore. It used to be a coping mechanism. He could pretend the people on the TV set were saying whatever he wanted them to say. Norman frowned. “Is something wrong, son?” he asked.
Harry sighed. He decided that Norman asking meant that maybe they could have five minutes of decent conversation and he should take advantage of that time. “It’s Pete,” he admitted.
For a moment, a confused look crossed Norman’s face, as if he didn’t recognize the name, and then he shook his head. “Ah, yes… You and he haven’t had a movie night in a while." Harry was surprised Norman had even noticed that much. " How is he?”
Harry shrugged. “I wouldn’t know,” he grumbled.
Norman shook his head, turning to Harry. So far, so good. His dad actually seemed mildly concerned about this. “What happened? Did you two get in a fight?”
“No…” he muttered. “At least… I don’t think we did. He’s just been real standoffish lately, and he hit Flash today…”
Norman frowned. “That doesn’t sound like Peter.”
Harry looked down at the pillow he was hugging to his chest. “I know. He’s just… It’s frustrating. I think there’s something really wrong with him, dad, but I don’t know how to help him. I can't help if he won't tell me what's.... wrong.” He trailed off. Norman said nothing and Harry looked up at him. He was staring forward, clenching one fist tightly. Harry followed his father’s gaze to the television as a news story about Spider-man played without audio. The photo they showed was a blurred mess of red and blue that could have been a car for all they knew. Harry shook his head and slouched. He didn’t know why he had expected anything different. “Whatever.”
Norman shook his head and looked down at him. “I’m sure this is merely a temporary issue. Give him some breathing room.”
Harry stood, shaking his head. Great advice, dad. Ignore the problem until it goes away. That's how you deal with me, after all. “I’m going down to the lab,” he snapped.
“Interested in the business?” Norman asked, completely missing, or ignoring, Harry's tone.
Interested in getting away from you, he thought, but he nodded without saying anything. He got back into the elevator and pressed the button for the sublevels. His father hadn’t always been the most attentive man to his problems, but ever since Spider-man had come into the picture, he had been so absent that Harry wondered if he even had a father most of the time. He sighed and leaned on the wall behind him. This was ridiculous. Peter was acting strange his and his father wasn’t acted any different at all and that meant that everything was terrible. He rested his head on the wall. He hated this.
The door dinged and he stepped into the underground lab. He walked down the grey halls, keeping his head down. Maybe he’d try to call Peter later. Surely that would start to mend whatever relationship they might have been able to salvage. He didn't even know which one of them had screwed up; or what was even wrong to begin with. All of this was just a disaster.
He stepped into a large room with several lab workers. If he remembered correctly, this was the lab space that the Life Foundation rented out. He still didn't know much about what was going on down here. Norman had told him he would one day tell Harry everything, but as usual, he hadn't gotten around to it yet. This left Harry to wander the halls indefinitely and confused about what was happening in his own company.
He walked to a large table with a tube resting on it. Inside the tube was… something. The black, inky thing moved sluggishly, folding in on itself. It seemed almost bored with the way it moved back and forth like someone pacing. Harry reached forward and tapped the thick, bullet proof glass. The thing inside flinched and suddenly became more agitated. Harry cocked his head. Was it alive…?
“Good afternoon, Harry.”
He turned around sheepishly, like a child who had been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. He put his hands behind his back. “Mrs. Skirth,” he said with a smile.
She returned it. “I see you’ve met Project Venom.”
“Oh, is that what we’re calling it?” he asked.
She nodded and walked past him to the table. He turned to face the tube and watch her as she struck a syringe inside. The thing reacted like any creature would. It backed away from the sharp object invading its space. He watched with wide eyes. It had to be alive.
“What is it?”
“We’re not sure,” she admitted. “The thing came back on a shuttle during one of our launches. Your father was very interested in it, so he let us have to lab space for free.” She tapped the glass and the thing flinched back. “There’s still so much about it that we don’t know, but—” She flipped a switch and suddenly a loud note played throughout the room. The creature inside writhed as if in pain. “It has a strong dislike of certain sounds… And fire,” she added with a smile. “But what isn’t afraid of fire?”
Harry watched it move and sighed. If it was alive, was it scared being in there and so far from home? He shook his head. He was sounding like Pete, who always wanted to give anything and everything the benefit of the doubt. He’d take one look at this thing and start pondering how its life was going.
He turned to Dr. Skirth. "What does it do?" He asked quietly.
She shrugged. "I don't know. We haven't really even tried feeding it anything, but we think it's getting weaker."
Harry frowned. Before he could say anything, someone else walked up. He smiled at the new young man stepping forward. "Hey, Brock," he said. The young man waved. Harry was used to seeing his older classmate in street clothes, but today, Eddie had on a lab coat with the Life Foundation logo on it. "Summer job?"
"Internship," Eddie answered without looking up. "Not everyone has a rich daddy to help pay the bills."
Harry scowled. Usually he would take comments like that in stride. He had known Eddie long enough to realize that he was joking for the most part. Pete never made jabs at his rich family, and the comparison was strong between them. It just brought up more thoughts about whatever was going on. "I guess the Bugle doesn't pay that well," he muttered. "But why the Life Foundation?"
"They're pioneering incredible things," he answered with a shrug. He tapped the life form's home. I mean, look at this. This is a new life form and we're separated from it by only thick glass. How can you not think this is amazing?"
"Its just goop," Harry grumbled. Between everyone fawning over this thing and his father obsessing over Spider-Man, he felt like a ghost in his own home.
Brock and Skirth either didn't hear him or they chose to ignore him. He was used to that. Skirth turned to Eddie and they began discussing the discoveries. He sighed and moved away from project Venom, moving throughout the lab without really looking at anything. He didn’t come down here very often, which his father hated. Norman wanted Harry to get more invested in the company, but he just wanted to get through high school without some crazy event throwing everything to hell.
He stopped when he noticed his father walking down the hall. Harry tried to duck out of sight, but he was too slow. “Harry!” Norman called with a smile. “See anything you like down here?”
Harry forced a smile. He should have done his homework instead. “Sure, dad,” he said with a slight smile. He wanted to humor his father the best he could, but too much was going on for him to do that. He started for the elevator, but Norman grabbed his shoulder. “What’s up?”
“I want to show you something,” he said. Harry sighed and thought to tell his father that he wasn’t in the mood or that he had homework. Surely Norman wouldn’t keep him down here if he said he wanted to do school work. He swallowed his excuses, though. It wasn’t often that Norman made time to spend time with him. He figured the least he could do was humor his dad for the time being.
“Sure,” he said and allowed Norman to lead him through the lab. He wasn’t sure what was going on down here. There were so many experiments that Harry couldn’t keep track. He had often thought to bring Peter down here. He would have geeked out about everything while Harry would look on in confusion. He tried to humor the other people in his life if he could.
Norman stopped in a small room and Harry followed him inside. The room had a single scientist working on the computer. Harry tried to make sense of the images and numbers on the screen, but it might have well been written in an alien language for how much he understood. The table was lined with several vials covering the entire spectrum of green. “This will revolutionize medicine,” Norman said proudly. Harry looked at the vials and frowned. He wanted to at least pretend to be happy for his dad, but how could he when Norman had never talked about his own accomplishments with as much pride as he was indicating to some experimental drug. He knew he was supposed to be happy. Everything good about his life was due to Oscorp.
He smiled. Not everything. Peter had nothing to do with Oscorp and he wanted to keep it that way. Peter was the one normal thing in his life. He was the one person who Harry could count on not to use him for his money or connections.
Norman apparently mistook Harry’s smile as pride in the green liquid. “It truly is amazing, son,” he said with a smile, putting his hand on Harry’s shoulder. Harry resisted the urge to push Norman away. He was still angry at his dad for… well, being Norman Osborn. He pushed down those thoughts. He knew how much pressure his dad was under.
I just wish one thing in my life wasn’t hard. Sometimes he wished he and Peter switched places. Whatever Pete was going through, he had the privilege of not having and multibillion dollar company that would be his one day… and not having Norman Osborn as a father.
“That’s great, dad,” Harry said, moving away. “You’ll have to tell me all about it over dinner.” That was probably the one place he knew he was safe from the explanation. “But right now, I have homework to do! Don’t stay out too late!” He waved at Norman and hurried back to the elevator. He’d call Peter and maybe invite him for dinner or something. That would keep both their minds off whatever crazy thing they were dealing with. And maybe, just maybe, he could get Peter to tell him what the hell was going on.
Chapter 5: What the Deaf Girl Heard
Chapter Five: What the Deaf Girl Heard
So far, Peter had learned that he knew nothing about the city he had sworn to protect. After roughing up a few street level thugs, he had found out very little about Hammerhead. One had even had the audacity to laugh at him for his ignorance about how the city ran. He strung that thug up and left him upside down with a note. Sure, it was petty, but he didn’t care. Sometimes he had to be petty. Besides, he had caught that guy roughing up a woman. He sighed as he sat on a fire escape in Midtown, resting his head on the railing with a soft groan. This was already becoming a mess, and he had only just begun. At least he didn't have to worry about school for a few days, but he'd have to get in touch with Harry for his homework.
He sighed. He needed to talk to Harry anyway, even without the need for homework. They were on the rocks and that had to be mended quickly before it was too late. He didn't want to lose one of the only friends he had over something petty. He took his retrieved camera in his hands and flipped through the photos he had gotten. They weren't great, but they were better than the pictures the Bugle had already run. Those made the photos of the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot look credible in comparison. They weren't going to win him any contests, though. He’d have to work a little harder; but he was too fast for the camera. He stood. Now wasn’t the time to feel sorry for himself. He had to get out there and figure this out; and get pictures so he could at least not be a liar to Aunt May.
A loud shout rang out in the graying evening and Peter smiled despite himself. Some action would keep his mind off of Harry, the Bugle, Aunt May and Flash. He knew he shouldn’t be excited about these things, but it would be good to get his blood pumping again. After being laughed at by a thug who didn’t even have a gun, Peter decided it was time to take a tougher approach.
He jumped onto the sidewalk and ran down the street where a man was holding up a young college student. Peter went to attack but froze instead. Maybe the best way to get information would be to let this play out long enough to get something. The thug shoved the student against the wall of the alley. "I... I'll get you the money!" the student begged. "I swear!"
The thug laughed. "Based on your history, I would assume that no, you won't."
"Please! I just need a few more days!" He sounded terrified. Usually Peter would have already stepped in. He hated doing nothing while someone was in danger. He wasn't one to just stand and watch, but he knew the thug would give away a lot more if he thought he wasn't being watched. Peter kept a finger on his web shooter just in case things got dicey.
"Manfredi's already given you a few more days, Johnny-boy. Now he's ready to make an example out of you." Manfredi…? Peter bit his lip. How much did he not know about this city?
The student shook his head, closing his eyes. "Please! Tell him he'll get his money, I swear!"
The thug laughed again. Peter hated how much this man seemed to be enjoying this. It was sickening. "Don't worry about the money. He'll get that when he sends your head to your rich daddy's house." He shoved the gun barrel into the kid's chest, right over his heart. "This ain't about the money anymore, kid. It's about respect. The Maggia has given you more than enough chances to get them money on time, and you have spat on their generosity again and again. This time you'll pay with your life."
Peter had seen enough. It was time to end this before someone got hurt. He had learned a few extra names, at least. Just as he went to press the web shooter, his phone rang. Peter gasped. He had forgotten to put it on silence. It was a rookie mistake. The thug spun around as Peter fumbled for the device, even though it was far too late to silence it. The damage had already been done.
Everything happened faster than even he could process it. As he made the choice to screw it and ignore the phone, the student made the choice to take his life into his own hands while the thug was distracted by the costumed vigilante fumbling for his phone tucked away in a small pouch on his leg. The student kicked the man away and Peter lunged at the man. He missed. He had waited too long. He should have apprehended the gangster and then interrogated him; but he had wanted to see where it was going. He had been hoping he’d get something if he let this play out for a while. Somewhere in that madness, his camera fell to the ground and the flash went off several times over the next few seconds.
Just when Peter landed where his target had been, the thug had in his priorities straight. The gun went off and Pete, out of instinct, ducked, but the bullet wasn't for him. The student dropped to his knees, holding his stomach as blood began spreading over his hoodie. That done, the thug spun around and aimed the weapon at Peter, but by that point, he had regained enough composure to kick the man to the wall and web him. "I'll deal with you later,” he hissed.
He turned to the student and knelt beside him, his heart pounding. Memories of the night Ben died flashed through his mind and he tried to push them down. That was in the past. This was happening now, and this kid needed his undivided attention. He shook his head and looked down at the student. The blood was coming too fast. He put his hand on the wound and got his finger over the lacerations inside. Web fluid wasn't going to fix that. "H-hey... you're going to be okay," Peter assured the student, even though he had his doubts.
"I... I needed the money..." the student whispered, as if trying to explain himself to someone who was judging.
Peter wasn’t judging. Criminals always had a reason. He may not have been doing this very long, but he had seen enough to know that most people didn’t just wake up one morning and turn to a life of crime. "I get that," he said with a forced smile. He couldn't move his hand, or the kid would bleed out. Kid... this young man had at least two years on Peter.
“You don’t know what you’re messing with, Spider-man!” the criminal shouted.
“I said I’d deal with you later!” Peter returned. He hated that the man was right. He didn’t know what he was messing with. He needed to call 911. They needed the police and an ambulance. “Can you reach your phone?” he asked the student, but he had already begun slipping into shock.
Before anyone could say much else, a black town car that looked like it had come straight out of a black and white gangster film pulled up to the entrance of the alley. The tinted back window of the car rolled down, but Peter couldn’t see inside. “Spider-man,” a voice inside greeted. Male. His accent belonged to a different era. “I knew one day our paths would meet. I was hoping it would be under different circumstances, though. This here is a bloody fine mess you've made.”
“Silence!” the man inside the car snapped. “You’ve done enough, Marlo.” He coughed. “Apologies, Mr. Spider, but these things do happen." There was a pause and despite the sounds of the city, Peter felt as if he could hear a pin drop in the silence of that pause. "You see, I’m not sure how we got on your radar, but if you know what’s good for you, you best get us off.” Peter said nothing. He didn’t know what to say. Spider-man was a crime fighter. The other costumed freaks that came out of the woodwork were tough, but they were simple. This… whatever this was… was very different. He had stumbled onto something he didn’t belong to. “You aren’t very good for business, but you have your uses.” A gloved hand appeared from the darkness in the car. In the hand was a gun. Peter flinched, but if he moved, the student would bleed out in seconds.
Marlo seemed to have a different idea of what was happening. “Boss! I didn’t tell the Spider nothin’!” he begged. “I didn’t know he was—” Whatever he was about to say was lost in the sound of the gun going off. Marlo gasped and his breathing became gargled as blood came from his mouth. Peter could do nothing as the breaths became weaker until they stopped all together.
“You cost me a good man today, Spider-man,” the boss said. His tone was just as steady and indifferent as if they were discussing something over dinner. Peter tensed to lunge. “I wouldn’t,” he said, tossing the clean gun into the alleyway. “Wouldn’t want that innocent young man bleeding to death, would you?” He sighed as sirens rang out in the distance. “Let’s go,” he said to his driver. “I’d rather not be here to handle the police. It was a pleasure, Spider-man. Let’s do it again sometime.”
Peter could do nothing except watch the car drive away. He bowed his head once the vehicle had disappeared, but when he looked down at the boy on the ground, he realized in horror that the bleeding had stopped, and the body was cooling down. Sometime during the altercation, the boy had passed away in silence... alone in an alley. A lump formed in Peter’s throat as he rocked back to sit on the pavement and in the blood. He needed to get out of there. He needed to not be here when the police showed up. He needed to track down that car. He needed to call Harry. He needed to get his life together. But he did nothing. He sat there even as the sun went down, and red and blue lights filled the alley.
Three officers stepped out of two cars. Peter recognized one of them. “Put your hands up!” Stacy called.
Peter complied, raising his arms and standing up slowly. This needed to be explained, so he didn't take off. “Captain Stacy…” he whispered. The seasoned captain cocked his head. Peter knew why. Usually when they encountered each other, Spider-man was a bag full of energy and had jokes to spare. This time, he had nothing but compliant.
Stacy looked at the alley and then at the blood on Spider-mans hands and legs. It was a blood bath. There were two corpses, two guns, and one masked vigilante already on the run from the last time he was found in an alleyway. Captain Stacy let out a long, whispering breath as he surveyed the scene. “What… have you done…?” His voice was shaking.
“I… I didn’t!” Peter gasped. Now he really needed to stay and assert his innocence. But his senses flared and he jumped onto the wall as one of the other officers fired.
“Hold your fire!” Stacy shouted, but the moment of peace and confusion between them was gone. Peter scrambled up the wall and shot a web at the camera to take it with him. Peter ran and didn’t stop running. It was nearing time for him to get home, but he didn’t think about that. He couldn’t. His mind was reeling. Two people had been killed in front of him and now… Now the cops thought he had done it. The gun the mobster had left didn’t have any fingerprints. That wouldn’t help his case.
He jumped off the nearest building and swung, yanking himself on his webs hard enough to bend poles and rip bricks from their spot. How could this have happened? He didn’t even know what world he had gotten in to! He had been investigating an assassination attempt! How had this gone downhill so quickly? When did he lose control over this situation?
He laughed out loud at that as he landed in a crouch on the edge of a building. When did he have control of this situation? He sat down on the roof he had landed on. He grabbed his phone and dialed Harry. He answered on the first ring. “Pete?”
“Can I come over?” Peter asked without going through the pleasantries.
“Please?” He hadn't meant to sound desperate, but the shaking in his voice was hard to mask.
“Y-yeah… sure. I’ll call your Aunt. When will you be here?”
Fifteen minutes later, Peter, dressed in civvies, stood in the lobby of the apartment building, pacing like a caged wild animal. Harry didn't make him wait long. Peter stopped his pacing to look at his friend. He seemed sad. They stood a few feet apart for a moment. “You called my Aunt?”
“Yeah. She’s happy that you called me. She's really worried about you." he said quietly. Peter looked away. “Pete… Are you okay?”
“No…” he squeaked. At first, Harry said nothing and Peter thought this was a mistake Harry didn't need this kind of thing in his life. He deserved a happier life. But then Harry crossed the space between them and put his hand on Peter’s shoulder. “I screwed up,” he whispered before falling on Harry, hugging him tightly. The tears he had been holding back came flooding out. He’d would have to come up with an excuse eventually, but for that moment, he needed someone to share in his pain. “Oh God, I screwed up…!”
Fisk looked down at the photos Maya had given him. He flipped through them, spreading them on the desk. “Are you sure?” he signed. He felt like this conversation needed to happen in sign to give her the respect she deserved.
She nodded her fist. “Yes.”
He observed the pictures. One was of Spider-man fighting one of Manfredi’s low ranking goons. The next few were of him kneeling in front of a body. She had said he was hard to keep up with after that. The next picture was him on the phone and the last was a teenager stepping out of the alleyway. He could study the young boy’s face. He wasn’t much older than Richard; still a high school student, it seemed. He smiled. That was surprising. They had all been assuming Spider-man was actually a man; not a boy. “Run facial recognition,” he said, unsure of the signs for the command.
“I have,” she answered. Her voice, despite having years of practice, still had that “deaf” quality. It wasn’t as noticeable as it could have been and could be written off as an average speech impediment, but it was there. He’d never tell her, of course. He pulled out a pen as she began signing, “P-E-T-E-R P-A-R-K-E-R.”
He wrote the name on the photo of the kid. He knew a good plenty of people who would pay out the ear for that name, but he merely put the photos in an envelope. “Will we go after him?” she asked.
He shook his head and brought a large hand to his head. He moved the hand away to make the sign for y. “Why?”
“We know who he is!” she insisted. “We should end him!”
He smiled and was glad that she couldn’t see his face as he walked towards the safe he had in the office. It wasn’t the best place for the photos, but he’d move it once he left for the night. He had time to banish the grin while he locked the pictures away before he turned back to her. “He’s doing our business for us,” he said. “If Manfredi has that kid on his radar, he’s already dead. Let’s just hope he takes some of the Maggia down on his way out, hm?”
She huffed and turned her head away from him. He hated it when she did that. It was akin to a child holding their hands over their ears to act like they weren’t listening. He reached down and gently moved her face to look at him. “You are smarter than this,” he said, pointing to her chest. “We won’t kill Spider-man because he’s more useful to us alive. If he gets tangled into the Maggia, then he won’t have time for us, and with any luck, they’ll kill him for us.”
“We should still let him know we know who he is,” she insisted. She had never gotten the hang of using the right tone. She tried intonation and tried to let her tone match her mood, but usually she either came across as too exaggerated or monotone. It wasn’t her fault. You could teach a deaf girl many things, but that wasn’t one of them. Tone was something that was learned through sound observation, not sight.
“No,” he said, also signing it. “Why would we scare him? He thinks we are perfect, law abiding citizens. If we threaten him, we will look like we have something to hide. It’s best that we let him believe what he wants to believe.”
Maya turned away from him again, but this time she didn’t look angry. She just seemed mildly annoyed and that was probably because she knew he was right. He smiled at her even as he walked away from her. These things would take time. She was hotheaded and hotblooded. She didn’t believe that they had to follow every letter of the law in order to break the laws when it was beneficial. Yes, killing Spider-man now would be easy. Assuring his loyalty to them would also be easy; but he didn’t want to buy Spider-man’s services. He wanted Peter to work with them on his own accord. Maya didn’t understand that people were far better and more loyal if they weren’t being threatened or forced into working for someone. The best employees were the ones working on their own free will.
He turned back to her and lifted his hand in the sign for m and tapped his cheek where the handprint was on her costume. She smiled. “I know you are eager, but this must be dealt with gently.”
“I know,” she grumbled. He shot her a questioning look, which earned him a light laugh. “I understand.”
“This is a delicate situation,” he continued. She nodded, urging him on. “With Spider-man probably going to take the hit for both those kills, he’s going to need friends in high places. We can make him dependent on us if he wants to remain out of jail.” He sat down on his desk and sighed. “He’ll get desperate soon enough. The Maggia aren’t the people anyone wants to tango with.”
“You sent him there,” she said with a shrug. He laughed. He hadn’t meant for Spider-man to get tangled in his own web. He had thought the boy would last more than a few hours. He had planned on giving Spider-man false leads that would have kept him busy long enough to close the deal with Osborn. This wasn’t part of the plan.
But he was good as rolling with the punches if he needed to. “We can use this to our advantage. And if things start going pear shaped, we will go after his family then.”
Chapter 6: Wanted
Chapter Six: Wanted
Captain Stacy stared down at the unmarked gun in the evidence bag in his hand. He had just gotten off the phone with the kid’s parents. They were on the way to identify the body. It was one of the hardest parts of his job. He had kid and every time he had to call a parent to tell them that their child had died, he felt a pit in his stomach. It never got any easier and he figured it never would.
He turned the gun in his hands. They had scanned it. There were no fingerprints and no maker’s mark on the weapon. It was as clean as the day it had come from the factory. The lack of prints or any organic manner didn’t mean anything. Spider-man was known for having no skin showing on his body. No one had ever seen the young man’s skin. The other gun they had recovered at the crime scene had the prints of Marlo Ricci; the other corpse found in the alleyway. Right now, their guess was that Ricci had killed the college student in the alley and Spider-man had retaliated. “It doesn’t make any sense,” he muttered as he returned the weapon to the evidence locker.
“Sir?” one of his officers asked. He flinched, turning to her. She was young; a rookie. Her dark hair was short and her dark eyes were narrowed in thought. He hadn’t realized that she had followed him into the evidence room. “What doesn’t make sense?”
He sighed. “This whole thing. Spider-man may be a loose-cannon with no accountability, but he’s never been unnecessarily violent.” He locked the locker and pocketed the key. “And if he wanted to kill someone, why a gun? The kid’s got enough strength to do the deed without one.”
She shrugged. “Maybe he wants us to have this conversation. He doesn’t need a gun, so he used a gun.”
Stacy shook his head slowly. “That doesn’t make any sense, though. When he left, he took a camera, but not the evidence. He didn’t stay and fight. He didn’t try to defend himself.”
“Maybe the evidence we need is on that camera?” she suggested.
“You might be right, Watanabe,” he said quietly. She gave him a half smile. “But we can’t accuse him of anything without evidence. Him being there without any eyewitnesses doesn’t mean he had been part of the crime.”
“We could call him in for questioning,” she suggested.
He smiled at her optimism. “That would require him to cooperate. He doesn’t have a history of doing that. He won’t come in unless we can haul him in.”
“And we can’t get an arrest warrant or even a subpoena without a name.”
Stacy leaned against a wall. They couldn’t do much without the kid’s name. They didn’t even have another witness to the crime. The only witness to the crime was the Spider and he wasn’t one to help in police investigations. Stacy would love to have a word with Spider-man. A lot of the criminals he thought he was hauling in ended up getting released because the way he did things wasn’t by the book.
He pushed off the wall as another officer walked into the evidence room. “Captain,” he greeted. “Your daughter is here.”
He scowled. It was in the middle of the night. What was Gwen doing here? He waved at Watanabe and then stepped outside where his daughter was waiting. He smiled despite the fact that he was worried about the fact that she was here. “What are you doing here?” he asked her, walking towards her and bringing her into an embrace. “Is something wrong?”
“You didn’t come home…” she whispered. He looked up at the clock as he hugged her tighter. Maybe it was the morning. He had lost track of time. It was 5 AM.
He sighed. “I’m sorry, honey,” she said, holding her at arm’s length. “There was a murder last night that I had to handle.” He liked that he could talk to her about work without scaring her too much. “Nothing you have to worry about.” He patted her head and she smiled back at him.
“Do you know who it was?” Gwen asked.
He shook his head. “No… but we might have a lead… if he’ll cooperate.”
Gwen frowned. “Spider-man?” she asked.
Stacy rubbed the bridge of his nose. Gwen was sometimes too smart for her own good. “Yes,” he said. There was no point in hiding it. He turned away from her with a sigh. “And we need him to get back here, but you know him; he doesn’t listen to us.”
“Have you asked him?” Gwen asked.
Stacy blinked. “Excuse me…?”
She shrugged and twirled her hair around her pointer finger absently. “Maybe just call him in. If he’s innocent, then he’ll want a chance to get his side of the story.”
He blinked and looked at her with a smile. Watanabe had said the same thing. Maybe they were both on to something. Stacy didn’t believe that Spider-man was a bad person. In fact, the kid seemed to think he was helping the city. If they could reign him in, maybe he’d come to his full potential. “You are a genius,” he said with Gwen, kissing her forehead. He turned away. “Watanabe!” he called. “We’re going with your idea. Get the media on the phone! Spider-man is now wanted for questioning.”
When Peter woke up, the sun was pouring in from the wall of windows that lined the penthouse. He didn’t move for a while. He was sore and stiff, and his face was crusted in dry tears. Some pillows from the sofa were strewn across the floor and the blanket that he had been given had been kicked off and bundled to the end by the armrest. He shut his eyes against the harsh morning light. He didn’t remember falling asleep and didn’t remember making the choice to even stay at Harry’s house the night before.
He reached for his phone and flinched when he noticed that his hands still had specks of blood stains on them. He didn’t remember explaining anything to Harry about where the stains had come from. He knew that beneath his civvies, he still had his suit on with the blood still on it. He grabbed his phone, unplugging it, and dialed May. He tried to come up with an excuse for why he hadn’t come home. He hoped Harry hadn’t made it sound as bad as it had been last night. Maybe he had lied to her and told her it was a sleepover. “Hey,” he said once she answered, not giving her a chance to speak first. “I’m sorry… for not coming home last night.”
She sighed deeply. His heart broke for her. “It’s okay,” she whispered. There was a moment of silence between them. He hated this. He missed the days when they could talk about anything… Before Ben died… Before Spider-man. “How are you?”
“I’m fine,” he lied. He needed to figure this out. Spider-man could disappear. All he had to do was not put on the mask again. It wasn’t like Spider-man lived out on the street. No one knew who he was, and no one could track him down without the mask. All he had to do was not be Spider-man. “I’ll be home later, okay?”
May released a long breath and he could tell that she didn’t like that. She wanted him home. Making her worry was making him sick. “Of course. Tell Harry and Mr. Osborn thank you for me. I’m glad they’re looking out for you.” He could hear the smile in her voice. He wished he could tell her that his visit to Harry hadn’t been just a social call, but he couldn’t do that to her. He hadn’t gone home because if May had seen how hysterical he had been the night before, she would have called out from work and she wouldn’t have let him out of her sight ever again. She was so scared of losing him that she would have freaked out had she seen how much of a wreck he had been.
“I’ll do that,” he said. The rest of their conversation was petty stuff about the weather or how work was going until she was called away from the nurse’s station and she reluctantly hung up. Peter sat up on the couch and pulled his knees to his chest as he stared at his phone. Spider-man was supposed to meet Fisk this morning. Or at least he was supposed to meet someone affiliated with the man. The man in the car hadn’t said he’d be hunting Spider-man down, but Peter didn’t want to cross the man’s path any time soon.
His stomach lurched as he remembered the student who had died yesterday; a death Captain Stacy probably saw as his fault. It was my fault… he thought bitterly. That kid had died under his watch. He had waited too long. Both those men would still be alive had he gotten involved sooner.
Peter flinched when movement caught his eye. Harry was walking towards him with a cup of hot tea in his hand. Peter took it gently, as if it were going to break the moment he touched it. He offered Harry a strained smile and Harry returned it. “So…” he started quietly, as if approaching a caged animal. Peter bowed his head and stared into the cup. He knew where this was going. “Do you want to talk about it?”
“Not really,” he muttered. That was a lie. He wanted to talk it. The question Harry should have asked was can you talk about it? Peter kept his attention on the tea. He didn’t want to see Harry’s face. Harry had put milk in the tea, and he watched the white liquid swirl and mingle with the brown tea, making it murky. Milk was denser than tea, so it still curled in the semi-translucent drink. “Why aren’t you in school?”
“I asked dad if I could skip the first two periods. I didn’t want to leave you alone.”
Peter smiled despite everything. Sometimes he didn’t realize how lucky he was to have such a support system; even if they didn’t know what they were supporting him for. Both boys turned when Osborn walked into the living room. “Good morning, Peter.”
He stood and nodded to Harry’s father. “Thank you. Aunt May appreciates you letting me stay here… And so do I,” he added quickly.
Osborn turned on the TV, but the volume was turned off. “It’s not problem at all, Peter,” he said with a smile. “You know you are always welcomed here.” He turned to Harry. “But I do expect you to get to school by third period when your exam is.” He straightened out his suit and turned his gaze to the television before turning it up. Peter followed his gaze. The morning news was on, running a story about Spider-man. Peter watched in horror as he realized that his alter ego was now wanted for questioning. His stomach lurched, but he couldn’t even be upset about it.
Norman huffed softly and walked to the elevator without saying anything. Peter turned off the television. “Are you going to tell me what’s going on?” Harry asked. Peter opened his mouth to say nothing, but Harry help up his hand. “And don’t tell me nothing,” he snapped. “Peter, you came to me last night in hysterics and your hands were stained with blood. What the hell happened last night?”
Peter reached for his camera. “I… I saw Spider-man last night,” he said quietly.
Harry narrowed his eyes. “He didn’t hurt you, did he?”
He shook his head quickly. “N-no! He didn’t hurt anyone! I saw it!” He pointed to the TV. “He was trying to save them!”
“Do you have any proof of that?”
Peter looked down at his camera. The lens was cracked, but he remembered the sound of the shutter closing. He turned on the device and flipped through a few bad pictures before he landed on one where he was running towards the downed student. There was no gun in his hand and the thug had already been thrown back. “There!” he gasped, showing Harry the photo. “Spider-man wasn’t trying to hurt anyone. He was trying to help.”
Harry took the camera and studied it. “I don’t know… this photo could mean anything, Pete.”
“But I was there,” Peter grumbled.
“Just because you were there, that doesn’t mean everyone else knows the context… But if you want to send it in… It is a much better picture than anything the news has ever run on the guy.” Harry stood and grabbed a laptop, handing it to Peter. “Did you get to talk to him at all?” he asked as Peter worked on exporting the photo.
“Any idea what he’s like?”
Peter shrugged. “I don’t know… he seemed pretty scared about the whole situation.” He found the Bugle’s website and attached to photo to an email before sending it off with a brief explanation as to what had happened. “I think he might just be a kid in over his head.”
Harry laughed gently. “He’s not the only one.” He stood and stretched. “I hate to leave you, but dad wants me at school. Unless you want me to stick around.”
Peter shook his head. He had things to do as Spider-man. “No. You wouldn’t want to make your dad angry by not showing up. I’ll be okay.” Harry looked down at him and Peter was reminded of all the times he had given his friend similar looks. Up until a year ago, Peter had been living the charmed and normal life while Harry was the one who found refuge in his home from his crazy family; or had called Peter in the middle of the night in near hysterics from a mental breakdown or just his dad causing a panic attack. “I promise.”
Harry’s expression didn’t change, but he grabbed his stuff anyway and headed for the elevator. Peter ran after him and got inside as well. Neither spoke the entire ride down and Harry said his goodbyes, leaving Peter alone.
Once he said goodbye to the doorman, Peter left the building and got on the subway. There was no point in suiting up to rush through the city. With the police looking for him and the man in the car out for blood, he was far safer as Peter Parker. The ride was eventless and Peter kept his head down the best he could. The last thing he needed was a truancy officer getting called. He couldn’t go to school, but they would have to confirm that.
The subway stopped and Peter hurried out before finding a secluded spot to dump his clothes and web them up for later use. He looked down at his suit and sighed. He had to get back before May did and clean it. The fact that he hadn’t showered since the day before made him feel disgusted, but he tried to ignore it as he put on his mask.
He was late and that fact yelled at him as he walked onto the docks. His senses buzzed at the back of his head and he resisted the urge to scratch it. He wasn’t in any danger and they were just trying to inform him that he wasn’t alone.
A person dressed in a white hoodie with a white mask stepped out of one shipping container; through the container. Peter took a step back.
“You are late,” the masked figure said. Its voice was mechanical and soulless with a slight echo to it. At first, Peter believed that his eyes simply weren’t adjusting to the harsh light, but the more he stared, the more he realized that the person in front of him wasn’t solid. The body seemed to be flickering in and out of existence and in a constantly shifting state. It wasn’t acting like liquid… it was acting like an old VHS that had been played one too many times
“Yeah, sorry. I’ve had a rough few hours.”
“I don’t care.”
Peter stood motionless for a moment before offering his hand. “Name’s Spider-man.”
His hand wasn’t taken. “Ghost.”
He pulled his hand back slowly, coughing softly. “Anyway… you have information for me?”
Ghost nodded and went back into the shipping container, returning with a briefcase. “Mr. Fisk requests that you do not bother Manfredi again if you can avoid it.”
Peter took the case. “Is that who I bothered?” Ghost nodded. “I will try to stay out of her way.” He got on his knees and opened the case. When he looked up, Ghost was gone. “Right…” he muttered, shaking his head. Dealing with these people was beginning to seem like a bad idea. “Oh, what gave you that idea, Peter?” he scolded as he dug through the papers he had been given. “Could it be that you knew this was a mistake before you showed up on Fisk’s doorstep?” He sat down on his legs with a sigh. “You’re an idiot…” he muttered.
He stood with the brief case and hurried away from the docks. He decided that maybe he should be secretly looking into Fisk. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust the man; it was that he just wanted to know who he was working with and how he would do this.
After swinging for a while, he decided it was time to go home. With that in mind, he chanced his flight pattern and made it to his home in record time. He needed a shower and he needed a nap. Despite nearly passing out at Harry’s house, he still felt exhausted. After showering, he put both his suits in the tub to soak and clean, and then he fell onto the couch, turning on the TV. His stomach growled, but he ignored it to the best of his ability. He closed his eyes and before he knew it, he drifted off.
Chapter 7: You'll be Left in the Dust
Chapter Seven: You'll be Left in the Dust
Gwen was sitting at her father’s desk in the police station, swiveling back and forth slightly while she waited for her dad to come inside. Outside the office, she could see him talking to a man as he handed him a plain manila folder. She looked down at the desk and the blurry pictures of Spider-man that her father had been looking at. They had no leads on him. No one knew who he was or even who would know how to get in contact with him.
She flinched when the door opened and George stepped in. “Good morning,” he said with a smile. “You shouldn’t be here.”
“I know.” She pointed to the folder. “What’s that?”
He grimaced. She knew that he didn’t want her to get involved in any of this. He’d rather her be safe and away from his job. But she couldn’t just sit back and watch. Every day she watched her father strap on his guns and belt and she watched him leave without knowing if that last glimpse of him through the door would be the last time she saw him alive. Now that she was older, those fears were stronger; but she could also do something about them now.
He sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Just someone from the Daily Bugle.” He opened the file and handed it to Gwen. She opened it. The only thing in the file was a singular picture. It had been taken through a camera that had a broken lens and it showed the best and clearest photo of Spider-man she had seen. On the bottom of the photo was a single name.
“You know him?” George asked.
“He’s in my class. Do you know him?”
He nodded slowly. “Remember the shooting last year? That was his uncle. And a couple days ago, that missing person was him.”
Gwen looked down at the photo. Peter had gotten himself in trouble a lot, it seemed. She studied the photo carefully. “What are you going to do?”
“Peter saw the crime,” he said with a shrug, taking the folder from her. “We need to call him in.”
“Can I be here when he comes?”
“You need to be at school.”
“I’m exempt from my exams today,” Gwen said, crossing her arms. If Peter was coming, she wanted to be there just in case he got overwhelmed. Luckily, Flash’s parents hadn’t pressed charges, but she wasn’t sure Peter would be able to keep his cool under this kind of pressure.
George sighed. “Alright.” He raised his voice. “Watanabe! I need you to find me one Peter Parker!”
When he opened his eyes, the first thing he noticed was the grey morning light seeping through the blinds of his bedroom. At first, Peter did nothing. Then it dawned on him that he had slept right through the afternoon and night. He bolted upright to find himself in his bed. Aunt May must have found him on the couch and moved him to his bed. Dread filled him. He had meant to sleep only for a few hours, but if he had slept the entire night, there was a chance that May had walked into his bathroom to see the spider suits soaking in the tub.
He threw off his blanket and hurried into the hallway. “Oh, you’re up,” May said, smiling at him from the kitchen.
“Morning,” he said quickly and walked towards the bathroom with haste.
“You don’t have to go to school today, you know,” she called. She was trying to make conversation, but he had bigger issues to deal with.
“I know.” He hurried into the bathroom to find everything as it had been. His eyes darted around the bathroom, but the curtain for the tub was drawn without being disturbed and everything looked to be in place. One of the saving graces about doing this job while living at home was that May was perfectly fine giving him his space when he needed it. He moved the curtains to find a tub full of bloody water.
Memories of the encounter with the student flooded back to him in a wave. Everything was still so clear, even with over 24 hours separating him from the murder. He hadn’t even known the student’s name. He reached his hand into the soiled water and fiddled with the stopper until he started draining the tub. If the police ever showed up, he’d be found with incriminating evidence in his room, but there was nothing to link him to the crime.
Other than the picture you sent to the Daily Bugle, a voice reminded him. He froze just short of turning on the shower to mask the draining water. He was linked to the crime. Not Spider-man, but Peter Parker. He turned on the shower and jumped in, throwing off his night shirt. In a mad rush, he washed the suits until the water coming off them ran clean; and then he scrubbed the tub. He had watched crime shows growing up. Blood didn’t just come off.
The water was cold by that point. He didn’t even know how long he had been in the shower, scrubbing away as if his life depended on it. Calm down, he thought. They’re not going to sweep this place for prints! They would just ask you to verify what happened. You’re not in trouble unless you give them a reason to be suspicious.
A knock on the door broke him out of his mad cleaning. “Peter? What’s going on in there? Are you okay?”
“I’m fine, Aunt May!” he called back. He went to get off his knees, but the soap coating he had put on the tub had other plans. Just as he stood, he foot caught on the soap and he went down. In an attempt to stop his fall, he grabbed for anything he could get his hands around. Unfortunately, the only thing within arms’ reach was the shower curtain. His head slammed onto the wall behind him as the shower curtain rod bounced off his chest. Water hit the curtain, turning the relatively quiet bathroom into a thunderstorm of noise and rain.
“Peter!” May called, knocking harder. He fumbled for the faucet to turn off the shower with one hand while he groped for his webshooters with the other. Just when he thought May would break down the door herself, he fired a web at the door to unlock is as he turned off the shower. The door swung opened and he had just enough time to move his night shirt over the two suits on the floor before May stepped in.
He smiled from where he lay in the tub, half covered by the fallen shower curtain. “Morning,” he said sheepishly with a small wave.
May could only stare at him for a moment, dumbfounded. “What happened?” she asked at length.
“I slipped.” That, at least, wasn’t a lie.
She crossed her arms. “You’ve been in there for almost an hour.”
“Sorry… but I’m not dressed…”
She smiled at him and turned, leaving him alone in his own shame. Luckily, he didn’t break anything, but a fall in the tub wasn’t usually a good thing. He grabbed a towel and dried off before shoving his suits in the towel and throwing back on his night shirt. As he stepped out, he noticed May watching the television with wide eyes.
“May?” he asked, coming towards her with his wet bundle. He would have to go to the community driers in the apartment building to dry his suits. That way, he could be out the door before noon. “Something happen?”
He stepped into the sitting area of their apartment and looked to the television. They were, of course, running a story on Spider-man. That was nothing new. But what got his heart racing was the fact that they were featuring his photograph. The name of the photographer wasn’t listed under the photo, thank God, but he had submitted it to the Bugle under his own name.
“The picture places infamous masked vigilante, Spider-man, at the scene of a double homicide,” one anchor said. She turned to her co-host. “The picture doesn’t say much that the police didn’t already know.”
“The biggest revelation is that there was another witness to the events of that night,” the co-host agreed.
She nodded. “The police haven’t released the name of the mysterious photographer, but whoever it is, the testimony they will have could finally put this masked menace behind bars for good.”
Peter gripped his suits tightly, hugging the towel bundle to his chest. “Aunt May…”
“That’s your photo… isn’t it?” she asked.
Peter looked to the ground. He could lie about it, but he knew that would only lead to trouble. She knew that he had gone looking for photo opts and that he hadn’t come home the night to homicides took place. “Yes.” The police would question him about it. He had to opportunity to drive the narrative; but would they believe him? Harry had said the picture didn’t prove anything.
May gasped softly. It was such a sad noise that it made his stomach drop further. “Peter…”
“He didn’t do it!” he defended quickly. “I was… I was there! He was trying to help!” May shook her head. “You don’t believe what they’re saying, do you?”
She didn’t answer him and his stomach churned. She didn’t know the significance of rejecting Spider-man, but he felt it like led in his heart. He had started this mess to keep people from suffering as he had suffered; and all he was doing was hurting himself and everyone around him. “I’m going to go dry these. I had to dry the floor in the bathroom, and it’s soaked.”
She didn’t answer again and he started for the door. “Peter.”
“I don’t know what to think about any of this, but I don’t want you out there taking pictures of him.”
He sighed. “I understand. But… I should probably turn myself in as the photographer. I witnessed the crime.”
She stared at him. To her, the last time he had been near and around a gunshot victim, it was when Ben got shot. He couldn’t tell her that he was already losing his gun shyness because criminals shot at and around him constantly. She would have a heart attack if she knew what he was doing.
“I’d rather they not come here,” he explained. She, again, said nothing. He left without her saying anything. He felt bad about making her worry, but he had to. This was his mess that he had started.
Once the suits were dry, he slipped the newer one on and then put the other in his backpack. He climbed the wall, dropped off the suit, and then jumped into the city towards the police station. As he swung through the city, he rehearsed what he was going to say. Over the past year, he had gotten pretty good at lying; but he wasn’t sure that was something he should be proud of. Becoming a pathological liar had been tough, but now he lied as quickly as anyone else would speak the truth.
When the police station came into view, he landed in a nearby alleyway to throw on his clothes and remove his mask and gloves. Once that deed had been done, he ran out of the alley just as George Stacy and Gwen stepped out of the station. Peter jogged toward the duo. “Mr. Stacy!” he called.
Both father and daughter froze when they saw him. “Peter?” he asked.
Gwen smiled. “Hey! What are you doing here?”
“I… figured you would want to see me because of that picture I took,” Peter explained. He tried to seem sheepish and not nervous. “I’ll be happy to tell you what I saw.”
Stacy nodded. “Good. We were just on our way to ask you some questions.”
Peter offered him a smile, but on the inside, he was freaking out a little. He hated that he was about to kind of lie to the police. Everything about the encounter would be true; except for the fact that there weren’t in fact two people there. It was just him.
He followed Stacy to an interrogation room and sat down. Gwen came in behind them and he wished that this was more private. He looked down at his hands. Stacy seemed content with letting him calm down before he started talking, but Peter could see that the police captain was impatient. He had rehearsed what he was going to say, but it sounded stiff in his head. Was he supposed to be wracked by what he had seen? Maybe Stacy expected him to be so shaken that he couldn’t speak of it.
“Why don’t you start by telling me what you were doing out there?” he offered.
Peter wrung his hands like he had seen people do in movies when they were nervous talking to the police. “I was trying to get pictures of Spider-man… for the contest,” he said. That wasn’t a lie.
“Well, you accomplished that. What did you see?”
“Spider-man was trying to help the college student. The mobster attacked the other man and then shot him. Spider-man was trying to save him.”
Stacy listened intently to Peter. He felt as if the Captain didn’t fully believe him. “Peter, I watched Spider-man retrieve the camera. Where were you when that happened? How did you get the camera back?”
Peter blinked like a deer in the headlights. He had forgotten that detail. How had Peter Parker gotten his camera back from Spider-man? He moved one hand under the table, clenching and unclenching his fists. At what point could he ask for his aunt? When were officers not allowed to talk to a minor?
Calm down, he thought. If he started asking for his aunt to be there, Captain Stacy would get suspicious. It was more suspicious if he didn’t answer the questions.
He shrugged. Spider-man was an enigma. The police didn’t know enough about him to figure out that he was lying. “I don’t know,” he admitted. “I got scared when I saw the police sirens. I thought I might get in trouble, so I fled the scene. The next day, I noticed that my camera had been left in our mailbox in the apartment complex.” He shrugged again, trying to act like it wasn’t that big of a deal. “I guess he returned it.”
Stacy nodded slowly, studying Peter. Suddenly the suit under his clothes felt hot and heavy. Luckily, the air was still cold enough to wear at least two layers, but he tried not to squirm as it felt like Captain Stacy could see right through his jacket and shirt to the red and blue suit beneath. His eyes flashed to Gwen, who was standing there studying him kindly.
“He returned your camera? And he didn’t destroy the memory card?”
“Guess he didn’t think about it,” Peter said before licking his lips.
Stacy nodded.”Mmmhmm…” He turned his head. “Where were you in the alley, Peter?”
“Fire escape,” he said quickly. “That’s why the lens is broken.”
“I see.” He didn’t believe him. Peter could see it in his face. There was some sort of inconsistency in his story that made it hard to believe, but he couldn’t figure out what. So far, the only lie he had told was that there had been another party involved at all. He bit his tongue absently. “Gwen, can I see you outside for a moment?”
She nodded and followed her father out. Peter contemplated running or at least getting Aunt May down there; but that would look worse than just answering the questions. He had a name that he could point to. He knew who had done it. He pocketed the name. Sending the police after a mobster probably wasn’t the best idea.
Gwen stepped outside with her father and leaned on the door. “You’re being too hard on him,” she berated.
“He knows more than he’s saying,” George said. She smiled at him. The he got frazzled was kind of endearing at times. The entire police force had been turned upside down ever since Spider-man came crawling out of the woodwork. It seemed like his job had just gotten more and more stressful the more Spider-man tried to help. Now, for some reason, Peter Parker was involved.
“What do you think he knows?”
George looked through the two-way mirror. She followed his gaze. Peter did look to be fidgeting, but who wouldn’t be? He was being questioned about witnessing a murder. “I think he knows Spider-man,” he said.
She turned to him sharply. “What?”
“I think he’s covering for Spider-man. Why else would the webhead have taken the camera when he fled?”
She shrugged. “Incriminating evidence?”
“That he returned to the owner without wiping it? If he was so desperate to get the evidence away from us, why let the photographer release any of the photos to the press?”
Gwen put her hand under her chin and looked at Peter through the glass, studying him. He had been going through a lot lately. Her father didn’t know that Peter had been skipping school, starting fights, sleeping in class and generally becoming aloof. She had seen a fairly steady friendship from Harry and Peter fall to the wayside in the past year. About when Spider-man started showing up…
“Let me talk to him… alone,” she said to her father. He looked at her with a questioning glance. “I have an idea.” He shrugged and motioned for her to go in. She did. The room was cold. She sat down on the other side of the table. “Peter. What’s going on?”
“I saw someone murdered,” he said. She tried not to show a reaction. Not long ago, he hadn’t cared about that. He had been pretty okay with talking about the murder. He avoided her gaze.
“You saw Spider-man, didn’t you? Up close?” He nodded. “What’s he like?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know. Scared, maybe? When the kid got shot, he got real nervous and flustered.”
“He didn’t do it?” Peter shook his head. “What did he do after the shooting?”
“He tried to stop the bleeding.” Peter swallowed like he was holding back a lump in his throat. She didn’t comment and pretended not to notice. “The mugger shot the student.”
“And who shot the mugger?”
Peter’s eyes darted. She knew that sign. She had seen her father interrogate enough people to know when they were either lying, or hiding something. He knew more than he was telling.
“Where’d the gun come from, Pete?” He mumbled something under his breath. “Peter, you need to tell me or they are going to go after Spider-man. You know him, don’t you?”
He looked up sharply. “I don’t!”
“Then how’d you get your camera back?”
“I told you how!”
“Then he knows you, and he might be mad that you released that picture.” He stood. “Peter…”
“Manfredi!” Peter snapped as if his life depended on it. “The gun came from a man named Manfredi! He killed the thug for getting Spider-man involved and left the gun in the alley for the police to find!” His eyes darted around the room. “That’s all I know!”
Gwen looked up at him and frowned. She had gotten the confession they needed… But, for some reason, she didn’t feel good about it.