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On the seventh day...

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Matt could smell sixteen women wearing Chanel No. 5, and two of them, he was pretty sure, were wearing the same dress. He even bet they were the same color: He could hear the restrained agitation in their voices and heartbeats when they passed each other.

He hated parties like this and he loved them.

"Find me a woman," Foggy said, nudging Matt. "Just someone to flirt with. I don't know how you do it, but you always sniff out the best-looking woman in the room."

Matt shook his head, smiling slightly.

"Come on! Come on, come on, you owe me." Foggy nudged him again.

"Owe?"

"Yes, owe!"

"I see. And womanflesh is my debt's currency."

Foggy laughed. "Matt! Don't be a dick."

Matt leaned his head back and inhaled and listened. "At the punch bowl," he said, finally. "The one with the bracelets." She was complaining to her friend that there were no nice guys. Foggy was nice, too nice.

"Yeah, I see her! You're a pal." Foggy clapped him on the shoulder and took off in pursuit.

It was quite a party. Diamonds made a very particular sound when they clicked together; so did gold. There was a constant, soft, soprano chime under the alto muddle of hundreds of voices. And money, the acrid smell of money everywhere, mixing with the champagne and caviar.

Some fundraiser. The ice in the punch was shaped like swans. How much money went to that that could have gone to AIDS instead?

Or was this breast cancer?

He couldn't remember. He was keeping an ear on the Kingpin, his conversations and the things not said.

A waiter approached him and Matt turned toward the man automatically.

"Punch?"

A tray with seven glasses, each holding champagne-bubbly punch with a single extravagant ice swan, held by... someone he knew. "Thank you, Frank," Matt said.

"You're welcome, Murdock."

No lies between them. They knew each other. Their identities were all over the newspapers, but that had nothing to do with it. "Are you going to kill anyone today?" Matt asked.

"Not here. Not now. Too many innocents in the line of fire." Frank's voice was flat. Every year, more of the emotion drained out. He was dying, inch by inch; he had been dying for years, poisoned in Central Park. "Not that I would miss, but his bodyguards would."

"If you would focus your energy on anything else--"

"If you would."

Shorthand for the argument neither of them was going to win.

"Could you put the glass in my hand, please?" Matt asked. "I'm blind." He held up his palm.

Frank passed him the glass, the slender handle held between two rough fingers. The ridges of his fingerprints were lined with gunpowder. His skin was ingrained with gun oil and smoke; that would never wash off.

One fingertip touched the heel of Matt's hand, leaving the tingling trace of sulfur behind.

When he left the party, he would trail Frank and try to find his hideout. Try to arrest him. He would fail, of course, because that's how things were.

"Thank you, Punisher," Matt said.

"You're welcome. Daredevil."

Frank passed into the crowd with the smell of murder heavy around him. Matt stood against the wall silently, ignoring his punch with its melting swan, watching the people with all of his senses.

THE END.

 

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