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three, two, one

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It takes three days before he realizes that Karen is missing.

Three days.

Frank Castle has a list of things he has done—some forgivable, others not. This lapse will make the second list; yet another failing that will probably slip into his nightmares. The fear manifests itself as anger, and he embraces that. Anger is fire, and he can use that.

He breaks into her apartment first. It’s a forgivable offense; Karen has offered him a key twice and he’s turned her down both times. He doesn’t want someone to find that key, to trace it back to her. Perhaps it’s paranoia but he isn’t going to risk her.

Not that his wariness seems to protect her any, part of him thinks. First Lewis Wilson and now this. It would probably just be safer to move in and camp out on her couch. At least then, he would know when she didn’t come home.

He opens her laptop first. The password prompt appears and he tries her name first.

Nothing.

Her birthday.

Nothing.

He sits there, trigger finger tapping against the table impatiently, his stomach roiling with some combination of simmering anxiety and fury. Three days. They’ve had her three days and he knows how badly a person can be hurt in only a few hours. In three days, there would be more than enough time to bury a body and—

He grits his teeth and types her father’s name.

Nothing.

Her mother’s.

Her brother’s.

(She did tell him about Kevin—over a bottle bourbon, when the night was waning into dawn, when her voice was almost whisper-soft in the tone most people use at confession.)

Nothing.

Fuck.

He leans back in the chair, rocking a little, needing to move. So much for nobody goes after her. Some protector he is.

He rises from the chair, goes to her coffee table. She has a tendency to leave her purse beneath it, and sure enough, he finds the familiar black lines of her bag.

(She bought a new one after she shot a hole through the bottom of her last purse; over take-out he joked about buying her a military-style backpack instead.)

He pulls it open; the thing is big enough to hold her gun—and he finds it. It’s loaded, the chamber full. She never got a chance to fire it. He also finds a folder full of notes—old newspaper clippings and scraps with her own handwriting on them. It’s the name of a politician, his aides, and a few scribbled thoughts. He can connect them well enough: bribes taken to ignore certain parts of the docks at certain times. Smugglers unloading—who knows what. Probably drugs, maybe guns. Maybe even people.

Frank’s jaw clenches hard. There isn’t an address, not even a dock number. He glances back at the laptop again, and returns to it.

Murdock, he types.

Nothing.

Nelson.

Nothing.

Finally, on a whim, he types, Castle.

It boots up.

He sits there, blinking for a few moments. Then he opens up her emails. Feels a bit like bastard doing so, but he doesn’t care. Again, it’s a forgivable offense.

(If something happens to her, that’s the only thing he can’t forgive. Not the people that hurt her, nor himself for letting it happen.)

He finds her last email: it’s with a source. They were to meet at a bar at the edge of Hell’s Kitchen. It isn’t a sketchy address, which was probably why she felt safe going alone.

Frank takes Karen’s gun. There’s something fitting in knowing he’ll kill her kidnappers with it.