It's the kind of weather old people drop dead in, a sudden blast of heat like opening a door on a burning building. Burning the weak away.
Bullseye wakes up pressed naked and damp against Frank's mattress. No sheet to wipe his face on, he rolls away from the sweat and heat where he'd been curled on his side. Stretches his limbs out of the tight ball he'd curled into, dreaming.
He wipes salt and snot across the bare mattress, darkens the stained surface like Frank might have darkened it with tears for his family.
No. No, Frank was finished with tears. Frank hadn't cried for a long time. There was nothing to suggest -- there are dime size drops where he'd laid his head. With one side of his face pressed to the surface of the mattress he looks across the off-white mountain range to the little yellow-grey spots.
The only think Frank spilt for his family now was blood.
Bullseye spills blood for all sorts of reasons: money, fun, boredom, the occasional surprise blackout. Not family.
They were really opposites in that way. He's going to have to work on that. He sucks a wet gob of salty snot in and swallows it, rubs his face against Frank's mattress until it's raw and dry.
Maybe he'll start dreaming about Frank instead of Dad. Maybe he'll start dreaming of Frank killing and killing Frank. Watching Frank kill. Frank killing him.
His dick twitches against the mattress as he grinds his hips against the soft, welcoming warmth of it. Surprising timing. He stretches out starfish-shaped, and naked as a dead hooker, strokes his fingers blindly across the little dips and hills of the mattress. His fingertips catch a rough patch on the material down by his hips. He can't quite see without moving his head. He picks at the crust of it with his sliced short nails. Old blood, old come?
What did Frank come for? Did he jerk off? He was older than Bullseye, maybe he jerked off less. Maybe he never touched himself. Maybe he saw and needed to see the same things Bullseye did and maybe he tried really hard not to. Maybe Frank tried so hard to ignore the urge he just came in his sleep.
His fingers move restlessly, and the little patch flakes away as he rubs it. He stops and spreads his hand flat across it before this little bit of Frank is lost. He hauls himself up and twists round with eyes closed, wriggles down the mattress to press his tongue between his fingers. He rests the tip against the stain and wonders, mouth watering. Saliva pools and slides down his tongue, thick slimy as his dick against the mattress, like its tasting this too. This little bit of Frank left behind. It could be blood. He closes his eyes.
He rubs at the spot with his tongue, spit soaks in like water added to a MRE, rehydration bringing out the not entirely pleasant flavour, what little there was to be had. Salt and the ugly inbred cousin of sweetness, something akin to rot and fermentation. Too many energy bars and protein shakes, Frank, not enough slow food. Sugary and quick. Frank's body is a weapon, and food is nothing more than another cartridge to be slapped in and used up.
A little bit of Frank inside him now. Bullseye doesn't believe in God, except maybe the little one inside every man, wrapped in the power to take life away more easily even than to begin it, but somewhere in his life Frank had been a believer. A Catholic.
He'd understand the concept of holy communion. The body.
Next, he'd need blood, and he wouldn't have to suffer with wine as a poor imitation. Frank wouldn't give it up without a fight of course, and that rips an orgasm out of him with a noise like he's been hit in the solar plexus and a feeling like being slit from balls to chest and everything bad pulled out hand over hand over hand, a good death, a happy little murder of all his higher function.
He lies panting on the mattress, swallowing the stale mix of morning breath and old come.
He leans over the edge of the dock and gazes down at the water. Red light spills over the ships sides from twenty feel above, and the river churns below it, flowing into the shadow of the bow dark as blood.
Frank has been here very, very recently.
The police at the scene are a couple of Kingpins pay-rolled doughnuts, sweating in the muggy night air.
He strolls up to them and lingers on a whim, standing shoulder to shoulder with the larger of the pair and rocking on his heels. They gradually trail off from the grin-worthy story of police brutality they're sharing and turn to give him the eye. Time to break the ice.
"What's your name officer...?" Bullseye grins and shoves his hands in his pockets. Fingers the steel there. He glances at the big man side-on.
He doesn't even laugh, minus one point from the myth of the jolly fat guy. He has an entirely superfluous chin that rolls thickly over the top of his collar, and he looks as if he's being strangled, and he's not happy about it. Doesn't help that his cheeks are brick-red and sweating. Bullseye's not sure how he'd feel if he had to spitshine his shoes and do up his top button, beholden to some asshole who he could kill. Homicidal, but then, that's more a baseline mood. Strangled and humourless seems like a fair reaction.
"Y'got kids Detective?" he starts again, and pitches his voice down a little, gruff. Dad-voice: clipped of all superfluous chit-chat so you can't quite hear the slur unless you know it's there.
"Yeah,” Detective Anderson frowns, then gestures to the docks. “You need to go take a look around?"
He shakes his head. Not yet. He'd been thinking about Frank and his family, and now the opportunity to throw the idea around a bit has arrived he feels it's important to take it.
"Why?" Detective Anderson's bottom lip pushes up and his eyebrows make little rolls between his eyes, too fleshy to have developed real wrinkles.
"Nah, nothin'. Just talkin'," he says, trying to settle into Dad's voice. "Me, I got two no good fucking boys. Eldest is a fucking psycho, and the youngest wants to be jus' like him," Dad's voice is really a lot easier if he uses Dad's words, too.
Detective Anderson relaxes visibly, his brow smoothes and he shakes his head and his patchy pink jowls.
"Tell me about it," he says. "My boy, he's got a mouth on him and his sister copies every word he says. Called his mother a fucking bitch the other day, right in front of me," he says, and shimmies his head again. "Slapped the fucking devil out of the smart ass," he mimes a backhanded swing and whistles as it descends low enough to catch a young cheek.
Bullseye laughs with him.
"So, where're you at? Maybe our boys picked up bad manners at the same school."
"Ah, down by East and Third. They go to the cat-lick school because their fucking bitch of a mother wants to waste half my salary on trying to get God into them."
Bullseye whistles as he walks away.
"Uh, see ya?" Detective Anderson trails off after him.
He's been thinking, for a while, that getting into Frank's head might be easier if he'd experienced a life more like Frank's. If he'd had what Frank had. If he understood what it was to lose what Frank had.
They'd both been military, so that aspect is fairly well covered. He sees the parallels in them in that way most of all, though he'd been too young to have seen 'Nam. 'Nam got talked about like it was special, by the ugly old men he'd come up under. Maybe it was, but he'd seen combat.
Why Frank Castle became the Punisher was the question. Maybe even the question. Wife and kids killed in front of him by the mob. Sure. Sounded right. Seemed... right, but it was hard to imagine the feeling.
He needed to see, to really understand. To slip inside Frank's skin and bleed like he did, hurt like he did. Sweaty Detective Anderson's home life sounds right. Useful.
A productive night and he hadn't even set eyes on Frank's good work here... though there's some now, red as the river and sticking to the sole of his boot. He pulls his foot free slowly, a gentle rip like wet velcro. The black asphalt shines with this little wet breadcrumb trail that leads a few feet away to a chaotic mess of shipping containers and boxes. There are lids askew on some. He tip toes into the spectacular puddle of blood he's been led to and peers over the side of the box it disappears under.
It's empty, and it smells like guns. The bottom is grease stained, darker spots in the shadows.
He reaches in and fingers the crate's splintered insides, the holes shot through this side but not the other. Of course, he'd have to kill the arms dealers and assorted cronies before he took the guns. It'd been shot up with whoever had bled out in front of it.
So Frank's got some more guns to add to his impressive collection. If it wouldn't be pushing it, he'd like to get into one of Frank's weapons stashes himself and just… breathe it in. Press the triggers. Break down what Frank had and build it back. No need to get ahead of himself, though.
He stands flat-footed again. He can feels the way Frank's boots would have crushed dead flesh under them for a boost, a human stepladder so he could reach over the high side of the box far enough down to scrape out every last bit of ammo. He wouldn't have had to tip-toe.
Bullseye steps back out of the blood puddle and stares at the stained and shot-up wood. It's easy to picture the corpse: there's a line of clean bullet holes punctuated by three very sticky red ones, the puddle right underneath.
He pulls out one of the guns holstered under his jacket.
The Detectives are almost certainly going to object. If they want to play, they can be useful as props.
He wishes he could have seen this before they'd moved the bodies. While he's at it, he wishes that he could have seen Frank in action, but if wishes were horses, the dog food factory would have a lot more business.
He sights the scene down his gun. It's not right.
He imagines something heavier, full auto, something big-balled and Frank. The invisible butt of it braced against his shoulder. Yeah. Frank liked it hot and heavy. It was obvious without even looking at the calibre of the bullet holes. He knew this part of Frank quite well already.
He sights down the pistol, held stretched out to compensate for its newly-imagined dimensions.
"Hey! You want to stow the piece in case someone else comes down here!"
"Just tell them I'm a detective."
Detective Anderson and friend exchange a sidelong glance and start sidling closer, sweating more profusely when they finish walking the fifty feet to him. He sighs and lowers the gun.
"No offence, uh," he scrambles for the name Bullseye hadn't given him then gives up with a huff. "But have you looked in the mirror lately?" He gestures a hammy hand to his forehead.
"Yeah. Guess I'm not sweaty enough to make a convincing Detective?"
"Look, psycho, we got orders to let you in but no one said we have to risk our fuckin' jobs letting you wave that piece around when any fuck could--"
Bullseye raises his gun again. The quiet Detective was actually his preferred of the two until he started speaking. Oh, well.
"Shut up or I'll shoot you in the head."
They both clamp their teeth shut hard enough he can see their jaws clench. That usually works.
"Look--" the nameless Detective turns out to be "Larry", or at least, that's what Detective Anderson shouts as he's spattered with probably-Larry's blood. A fragment of skull bounces comically off Detective Anderson's teeth and he claps his sausage fingers over his mouth and makes a sound like a dog being hit by a car. His other hand scrambles clumsily for his gun.
"You fumble that much when you're trying to find your dick?" Bullseye asks. "Genuine question, Detective Anderson, you've got a lot of weight around that area."
Detective Anderson's free hand finally finds his shoulder holster and he flicks the heavy stud open.
"There you go!"
He falls in a heap next to Larry, spattered and jiggling slightly like a dropped jello.
It takes a minute to haul Detective Anderson over to the crate and prop him up just right.
He saves Larry for another part of this little scene. There's more waiting behind yellow police tape that's beckoning him with a flirty flutter, strung loosely across the gaping mouth of one of the big steel shipping containers. Larry will be easier to drag that far.
"Now," he says to Detective Anderson, and pats him on his slack jaw once. "Kingpin will maybe be a little fucked off over this, but he'll have to understand that putting myself in Frank's shoes," he steps back far enough he can see the whole crate properly, with its prop-body and authentic blood, "will get us so much closer, and the closer we get, the better I can do my job.”
Detective Anderson says nothing, just watches sleepily. The hole in his forehead has leaked a long line that's running sluggishly into his left eye. The lopsided lull of his head seems to project a sort of mild question.
"Frank and I," Bullseye answers the not-question. "Of course."
Frank would have peppered the man that stood there with multiple shots, but there'd been some order to it. Frank would have gone for the real hot zones, for the kill: head, neck, chest, groin.
He pops three shots into Detective Anderson's throat, nearly close enough together they form a second slack lipped mouth. He knows Frank would have hit the man that was here first even after he was already down like this, a double tap, thorough, brutal. Not strictly business. A little overkill, a little fun. Fun.
Frank enjoys this.
As much as he does.
The thought is charming.
The gunshots, though, are not as satisfying as he'd hoped.
He can't be sure, exactly, without seeing the body that had lain there before, where Frank had hit it. He frowns.
What he does know is where Frank had hit the gun box.
He fires and slips a bullet into the waiting hole, the first on the right, his smaller round sliding through without even touching the sides.
Exactly like that.
He's grinning and breathing more heavily when he finishes, six neat re-enactments quick one after another. Feels like. Frank.
He takes Detective Anderson's wallet from his pocket, and takes his license out. East and Third. He slips the license into his own pocket and adjusts himself.
He feels close to Frank.
He grins as he grips Larry's wrist and drags him towards the shipping container.
"I've seen you watchin'. You here for the coffee or what the fuck?"
The teenager lounges on the stairs, his jeans are dirty and an inch too short and his sneakers are brand new, bright yellow and white. He sniffles and stares up at Bullseye with eyes as dead and indifferent as a corpse. Wouldn't even be any fun to kill him, he's walking dead.
It'd be a little fun.
This building is directly across the way from its slightly more decrepit twin. That side's full of drugs, this side's full of hard working folk, who are probably all addicted to those drugs.
"That coffee come with sugar?"
The teenager stands lazily, sways tall and skinny as a skeleton in his ugly expensive shoes and sniffs again.
"Whatever you want if you can pay for it."
Bullseye flashes some money and a smile.
"Gets served up in 2A," the teenager says and buzzes him in. "You're gonna have to leave that in the hall with the big man."
He shrugs, adjusts his backpack and ducks into the shaded interior of the building. The lobby smells like piss.
Maybe there is such a thing as fate. Destiny.
He'd gotten his tarot read once. She'd said he was a bad man. It would have been somewhat more impressive if he hadn't been holding a gun pointed at her heart across the table.
So maybe not fate, but he's open to experience. He'd stood here half a day watching and thinking how he was going to get a good vantage point for the show when Frank arrived and burned the whole ratsnest down. He'd been minding his business and watching a string of Johns go in ugly, sweaty and flashing cash and come down ugly, sweaty and broke this side of the street while the junkies did the same on the other.
He blames Frank for it not occurring to him until the dead-eyed kid spoke up.
Easiest way in is through the front door, and then he can just walk on past the whore's doorway and find the roof access.
He glances at the second floor door as he goes and keeps on climbing.
What the appeal of sticking his dick in a fucked out bag of limp, indifferent flesh would be he doesn't know. He can't remember if he'd ever seen the appeal of the whole horizontal dance. He'd done it.
He's not sure he could, now.
Sweat and flopping around like landed fish. He pictures some big breasted girl with a barbed, ugly fishhook right through her red mouth, painting it redder.
He feels a warm stir in his guts, a little tug at his balls and he stops at the top of the stairwell, and huffs out a little surprised laugh.
Maybe he could.
But why would he waste time when he could be doing this, getting ready to watch Frank kill dozens of men and burn their worlds to the ground?
He grips the paint-flaking bannister hard.
He would not miss this for the entire world, bleeding on its knees.
The tenth floor door slides open silently, into an empty hallway.
His boots squeak faintly on the dirty plastic floor. Like a hospital floor. Same institutional green. Easy to hose down.
“ROOF ACCESS KEEP OUT” is painted in red across the doorway at the end of the hall, and the door is half open.
He's going to seriously have to reconsider fate and destiny as far as he and Frank are concerned.
Someone up there wants them to get together just as much as he does.
He slips through the open door at the top of the stairs, back into the dying afternoon sunlight.
"Who the FUCK are you?"
The smell of whisky is strong enough he feels near drunk from the hot gust of breath that accompanies the question.
The man's pointing at him with a screwdriver, which in most instances would have earned him a bullet already, but he's the one that'd left the door open so he gets a second chance.
Bullseye swings his bag off his shoulder and lets it drop onto the concrete.
The man is middle aged, balding and wearing a stained grey pair of coveralls. The bottle he's been at peeks out of the top pocket, nearly prodding him in the chin. Easy access. There's a toolbox at his feet, bristling with metal that's practically begging to be used in awful, depraved ways. A claw hammer lies seductively on the ground just outside the box.
"Y'can't be up here boy. I gotta fix the damn heating. Go jump off somewhere else."
"I don't want to kill myself. I'm just here for the view."
There's a low wall around the roof's edge that will be absolutely perfect.
"You better fucking GO before I make you boy," the man slurs and waves his screwdriver like a wand. Like he can make Bullseye disappear.
"Hm, can I borrow this?" Bullseye asks and reaches down before he gets an answer.
The hammer hits with the man's forehead with a satisfying crunch, and he falls face forward with an interesting howling sound. A sort of mush-mouthed scream that goes on and on and on, rising and falling as he breathes. He might have popped something loose in his head.
He picks up the hammer and levers the man over onto his back. The sound fades into a kind of rattling gurgle. His mouth is open stiffly, like a stroke victim.
The gurgle is actually far more annoying than the scream.
Bullseye looks between the ugly noise and the hammer, before he embeds the claw end in the side of the man's windpipe and levers upwards until there's a crunch and silence.
It takes about five minutes to set up the rifle and scope, but only because he's drawing it out. He could do it in one, but he's got a little while until the sun sets and Frank makes his ways here.
He takes a second to close the roof access door quietly, and push a screwdriver through the handle, barring it.
He wants to make everything just right for his second in-the-flesh look at The Punisher. Frank.
He knows the second Frank arrives. At eleven twenty five all the lights in the building across the way go out.
He can't see anything yet, every window staring back darkly.
The muzzle flashes run consistently up the building, floor by floor, and the shouts start drifting across the way by the time he hits the fifth.
Bullseye presses his eye to the scope until his eye-socket starts to hurt then pulls back and breathes.
There's a shattering of glass and a man throws himself out of a tenth floor window right before the muzzle flashes become visible in the dark room behind him.
His loss not to see Frank in action and at least go out at the hand of someone who knows what they're doing.
Bullseye squeezes the trigger and picks the falling man off, popping a hole in him through the middle of the pocket on the front of his shirt.
He jerks, but that wasn't necessarily a fatal shot and he's probably not quite dead when he hits the pavement head first. His skull caves like a sad Halloween pumpkin, left out too long and kicked off a doorstep.
He brings the sight back up and draws in a sharp breath.
Frank is leaning out the broken window, looking down. One hand is curled around the windowsill, the other still holding his gun. Never off guard. His pitch-dark hair is slickly shining, maybe from running his hands over it when they're gloved and blood slick. Maybe from earlier, dirty with grease and gun oil. Bullseye wishes, suddenly, that he could smell him.
Frank looks up suddenly, and his face is made extraterrestrial by the stalks of the night vision goggles he has pulled up onto his forehead. He's like something out of a hallucination. Bullseye stills the scope so it's perfectly level.
Frank's shirt is as shiny black as his hair, point one for it being blood in his hair. Not his own, though. His face is relaxed, his mouth as neutral as it gets, turns down just slightly in a perpetual frown. Even at ease, the lines around his mouth look as if they've been carved into him by someone lucky and unkind. His features are all heavy handed, thick eyebrows, thick lips, dark, dark eyes.
His face says he's not a man with whom you fuck.
Bullseye feels his heartbeat speed up.
He can't. Wait.
He takes his finger off the trigger and rests it on the outside of the trigger guard.
He could forget himself entirely around Frank. Just live this long moment before the explosion, the slow motion crash. Just Frank Frank Frank and the trivialities of past and future, of dreams, all pale and easily shoved away. He just wants to bathe in the cordite scented glory of Frank Castle's blood spatter red life.
Frank looks up from the split-pumpkin of a man on the pavement, but not up quite high enough to spot him.
He focuses on the bandage on Frank's neck, the evidence of their first meeting, stark white against his tanned skin.
Where he'd missed his shot.
The bullet hits before he realises he's squeezing the trigger. He hadn't noticed his finger had creeping back to it, warm curve of metal felt too natural under his fingers for thought.
It splinters the wood between Frank's fingers where they're curved over the sill.
Frank's face hardens and he jerks his head higher, catches sight of the scope. He takes his hand away only after he's made his assessment, not a jerk or a flinch from any part of him.
He steps back into the darkness of the room and disappears torso first, his face and the skull across his shirt left staring for a second before they disappear too.
Bullseye knows he should move. Now.
It takes thirty seconds: there's a deep resonating thonk like someone's thumped a PVC pipe before he sees it.
The grenade arcs through the air between them he jerks the rifle up squeezes the trigger as it hits the peak of its trajectory. He ducks behind the wall, but his ears still ring from the explosion.
He leaves the rifle and runs. He can't hear his laughter, but he knows he's laughing.
His heart is beating itself bruised inside his chest. This might be love.
He is going to kill Frank Castle, and it is going to be beautiful.