Ghoul Fan Fiction Part 6

Once again, the Punisher looked pissed that I was having a conversation that he couldn’t hear both sides of. I didn’t care. “Cook took your grandson,” I asked, not really believing. “With you and Amanda both dead, your grandson gives him no leverage over anyone. Why would he do that?”

“I’m a ghost, not a mind reader, you jackass,” McKenzie retorted. “How the hell should I know?”

“He has two sons around that age,” the Punisher interjected with a shrug. “Maybe one of them is the father. Or, maybe it’s Cook himself, if she had a thing for older men.”

“They had better not be,” Robert fumed. “She told me it was some boy from school. I swear if any of those three even thought about touching my daughter, I’ll kill all of them.”

“Focus, people,” I hollered. “Let’s get back to what matters. We have a deal, McKenzie. If you tell me where you hid those files, we’ll go get your grandson.”

“It’s behind an air vent in Dallos’ billiards room.”

“You hid your files in Dallos’ house?”

“If I was trying to hide something from you, would you look in your own house for it?”

“Good point. Wouldn’t he notice that the air flow is being disrupted, though? There’s no way those files are letting air go by them.”

“They’re on a flash drive.” 

“Amanda said you kept all your files on paper because you didn’t trust computers.”

“Do you know how many people in this city are in the business? I’d need a warehouse to keep files on all of them on paper. I was forced to make an exception.”

“It’s really annoying when you talk to people who aren’t there and don’t tell me what they say,” the Punisher grumbled.

“It’s not important,” I countered. “Let’s just go get his grandson.”

“I don’t think so. I’m going to Dallos’ house to get the files.” The look on my face must’ve shown my confusion  because he clarified, “I still heard your side of the conversation, genius.”

I thought back. Had I said where the files were out loud? Damn it! I had.

By the time I turned to try to convince the Punisher to change his mind, he was already halfway out the door. “Let him go,” McKenzie said. “We don’t need him. You’re immortal, right?”

“More or less.”

“Then you’ve got nothing to fear from a bunch of guys with guns.”

I stood up and got my gear together. Once I had both of my shoulder holsters on, and full, I put a couple of extra clips of ammo in my pocket. An old rickety jacket was thrown over my shoulders to cover the guns up as I walked out of my office.

When I was around halfway to Cook’s house, I ditched the old jacket in an alley and put on my tan trenchcoat, that I had been carrying underneath the other jacket. I put on the other garment that I had under my jacket, my brimmed hat, and pulled up the collars. My face needed to be as obscured as possible. Once I had it hidden as best I could, I pulled off the magic ring. Immediately, I returned to my actual appearance. 

“What did you do that for,” McKenzie griped disgustedly.

“As far as the world knows,” I replied, ignoring the ghost’s tone of voice, “Jonathan Martin is just a regular private investigator. If a surveillance camera catches him entering, or even near, a place right before a gun fight breaks out, his life becomes far more difficult. For tonight, I’m Ghoul.”

“If you say so, pal,” I thought I heard Robert mutter, but I ignored the dead bastard.

The remainder of the walk was fairly uneventful. Most people ignored my horrid appearance. I told the few who didn’t that I was on my way to a zombie walk, which they applauded. That’s one of the great things about living in New York City. Nothing is considered weird here.

Unlike Dallos, who had a house out in the suburbs, Cook resided in a fairly swanky building in the city. Swanky enough to have a doorman, anyway. I had a way around him, though. All I had to do was walk up to him and show him my face. Naturally, he freaked and tried to run away, but I  grabbed him by the collar of the ridiculous looking jacket they made him wear and made him open the door first. Once he did, I released him and he ran away screaming.

After I got inside, McKenzie, who had been here many times before, directed me on where to go. I got on the elevator and hit the floor number he indicated. While I was going up, I pulled my guns out of their holsters, expecting trouble as soon as the doors opened. There was none.

The doors opened up directly into the living area, an entertainment room by the looks of it. Cook sat on the couch watching TV, with the infant in his hands. Obviously, he heard me approach because without turning around he said, “It wasn’t supposed to happen like that. Amanda wasn’t supposed to die. But, Dallos moved too quickly. I couldn’t stop him.”

“Where are your bodyguards?”

“I don’t have any. I’m a secret mobster, remember?”

He turned to face me for the first time. To his credit, he didn’t react to my visage. “I thought you were the Punisher,” he admitted. 

“No,” I responded, “I’m much more charming than he is. I can, however, kill you just as dead as he can if you keep lying to me. Now, where are your bodyguards?”

“I’m not lying. Not tonight, at least. There’s nobody here but us. Everyone else is at Dallos’ house.”

Uh oh. “What are they doing there?”

“Dallos killed Amanda  because he didn’t believe her when she said she couldn’t get the file for us. He thought she was working with someone else to hide it from us. After he killed her, he said we wouldn’t need to look for her partner because they’d come after him for revenge. So, now he’s got all of our guys, plus some extra muscle he hired on, waiting for whoever shows up.”

Damn, I thought. The Punisher is about to walk into an ambush and I have no way of warning him.

The Perfect Villain 

Throughout time, there have been many memorable villains. Darth Vader, Sauron, Hans Gruber (say what you want about Die Hard, Alan Rickman was genius in that role), The Joker, Lex Luthor, Moriarty, Magneto, Loki. The list goes on and on. And that’s just in fiction. There have been plenty of real world villains out there too.

If you’re looking for the perfect villain, though, there is one that’s hard to beat.

Let’s say I’m writing a movie. It focuses mainly on two characters. The first is a guy who goes around being nice to everyone he sees. The second is a murderer who beats orphans to death with puppies. By the end of the movie, it’s a pretty safe bet that  the audience would hate the second guy more. However, I could change that by having the first character say three little words: “I’m a Nazi.”

Suddenly, the man who beats orphans to death with puppies isn’t the worst person in the movie. 

It’s true. Since the end of World War Two, Hitler and his Nazis have been the villains in more things than probably anyone else. Just hearing the word Nazi is usually enough to get blood boiling. That’s why, to this day, politicians use the word to describe the opposing political party. It’s meant to paint them in the worst possible light.

Obviously, what Hitler and his Nazis did were horrible, horrible things, but does that make them the worst of the worst? What makes people feel that way?

Is it the number of people that he had killed? 

It’s estimated that Stalin had more people killed than Hitler did, yet history is slightly kinder to him. And Mao is estimated to have had more people killed than both of them combined. I’m sure there’s one out there somewhere, but I have yet to see a movie, book, or TV show that has Mao as the bad guy. Do we not care that he ordered the deaths of more people than anyone else in history just because it happened in China?

Is it the blatant racism, mostly directed towards the Jewish people?

The ancient Egyptians were also particularly cruel to the Jews, enslaving them and working them to death on the pyramids. Outside of the Bible, however, I haven’t seen any stories about their exploits portrayed in entertainment. 

Is it a combination of both? Is it something else? Or is it something that is completely undefinable? 

I don’t know. What I do know is that if you want your villain to be completely hated, slap a swastika on them and your job is done.

Ghoul Fan Fiction Part 5

 

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As soon as the Punisher told me that he wasn’t planning on killing her, I should’ve known something was wrong. The aura of death surrounding Amanda told me it was coming, but I pushed it aside when I took her away from him. I still felt it, even if I didn’t admit it to myself. Had I listened to it, maybe she’d still be alive right now.

“Hey, Martin,” the Punisher snapped my last name. “What the hell is going on? Why were you whispering to nobody?”

“You know how the Hulk is green and can throw heavy things?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, I got the green part down. I just can’t pick up cars. What I can do, though, is talk to the dead, and Amanda’s spirit just came to me.”

“You think you can talk to ghosts?”

“So do ghosts. And I have three of them here that want to talk to you.. A woman with two children. Do you want to talk to them…. Frank?”

If I were in a different situation, I might laugh at his facial expression. It was rage, confusion, and sadness all rolled into one. I didn’t have time for laughs right now. “What’s it gonna be,  Frank,” I asked impatiently. “You gonna talk to them?”

“Fine,” he conceded with a snarl. “You can talk to ghosts. But if you ever bring up that woman and the children again, I don’t care how unkillable you think you are, I will find a way to end your existence.”

Once again, I wanted to laugh. Oh sure, he could blow me up into a million pieces. That would certainly slow me down while my body put itself back together, but he couldn’t kill me. Trust me, more powerful people than him have tried.

“Fine,” I mocked his earlier tone.

“What happened to her?”

“All she said was that she left the place I had her stashed to get her son and that ‘they’ were waiting on her.”

“Who is ‘they’?”

“I’m assuming she’s talking about her father’s associates, Cook and Dallos.”

“She better not be talking about Cook. I made it very clear to him that nothing was to happen to her.”

“What are you talking about? You’re in contact with Cook?”

“I’ve gone up against a lot of gangsters in my time, but McKenzie was one of the smartest I’ve come across. Hell, I didn’t even know about him until about a month ago. The only reason I know about him is Cook. He never said how, but he and Dallos found out about him. They weren’t very happy that their old friend had been conning and using them.

“So, they decided to start making some side deals on their own. The problem with that was they weren’t as smart as McKenzie and they caught my attention. I busted in on a deal that Cook was making with the Russians for some guns. He started cowering when the shooting started. After I killed everyone else, he tried making a deal with me. I played along with it at first, but eventually we came to an understanding.”

“And what was that?”

“He’d tell me everything he knew in exchange for me not killing his two sons when I took down the family. They were low level guys who really hadn’t done much anyways, so I was ok with giving him that one. That’s when he told me about McKenzie and what was in his files.”

“Sorry, but I  kinda tuned you out when you told me what was in there earlier. I was shocked when I saw Amanda walk in. What’s so important that’s in those files?”

“Dirt on every mid to major organized crime figure in the city. I don’t know how he did it, but he got incriminating evidence on all of them. That way, if anyone pushed too hard to find out his true identity, McKenzie would blackmail them into backing off.”

“Well, I’m sorry to say, but I think that file is lost. McKenzie wouldn’t tell me where it was, and Amanda didn’t know.”

“How can you be sure that she doesn’t know where it is?”

“Because she hired me to find it. I asked her dad where it was, but he wouldn’t tell me.”

“I’ll tell you now,” a voice interrupted. Robert McKenzie stood behind the Punisher, staring at me. “But, if I do, you have to do something for me.”

I held up a finger to stop the Punisher before he started talking. “What do you want me to do,” I asked him.

“When they killed my daughter, Cook took my grandson. I  want you to get him back.”

RPG Sequels 

I’m sure this has happened in many other games, but the one I’m focusing on right now is the Dragon Age series of games. And not just the games, but the books and the movie too. Specifically, I’ll be talking about the characters that inhabit these things. 

In the first game, everything is fine. There are no problems because it is what is starting the continuity. Then the second game came out. Sure, depending on what you did in the first game, there were some cameos from people in the first game, but none of them played a big role in the second game…. except for Isabella. 

It’s easy to forget that Isabella was even in the first game. Hell, I forgot it until she interacted with another character from the first game who was making a cameo. In the first game, you could play some type of card game with her, but I think she always won because she cheated. The other thing she did in the first game was teach your character a class specialization. Now, I don’t remember what level you needed to be on in Origins to gain a class specialization point, but I do know that in the second game you got them at levels 7 and 14. Which means at the time of Origins (according to the game mechanics), she had to be at least at level 7. Although, if you look at it logically, someone proficient enough to teach others a skill would be of a higher level. So, I would venture that she had to be closer to level 14 than 7, during the time of Origins. 

Yet, when you first get to play her in 2, she starts off at your level. I’m pretty sure I was at level 5 when she first joined up with me. That means that sometime during the 2 years, or so, of the time between the end of Origins and that part in 2, Isabella managed to lose at least 2 levels of experience. As I said, though, it would probably be closer to 9.

How does that happen?

And that one isn’t the one that’s bothering me the most. It’s two characters from Inquisition: Cassandra and Varric.

Out of the two, Cassandra is the more forgivable one. After all, her skills aren’t shown in Dragon Age 2. They are, however, shown off in the CGI movie Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker. Within the first five minutes of the movie, she kills a dragon pretty much singlehandedly. I don’t know if you’ve ever played any of the Dragon Age games, but, like in most mythos, they’re hard to kill. Not counting the Archdemon at the end of Origins, there is only one dragon a piece in each of the first two games. The dragon in the first game is a giant pain in the ass. I hated fighting that thing. In the second game, the dragon was easier to beat, but it was still tough.

In Dawn of the Seeker, they explain that she’s good at fighting dragons because she studied under a group that specializes in killing them. Ok fine. If you take the time to talk to her in Inquisition, Cassandra tells you that she was a teenager when Dawn of the Seeker happened and that it was 18-20 years ago. That would put her somewhere between 36-39 years old. She’s still in the years to be in prime physical form. Yet, when you fight dragons, she does just as much damage to them as she does to everything else. Shouldn’t she do more damage to them since she’s a trained dragon slayer? Maybe double or triple as much? Shouldn’t I do more damage to them if she’s in my party? It would be very easy for her to point out its vulnerable spots are.

The worst offender of the bunch, though is Varric. He is a member of your party almost the entire game in 2. I beat the game, while doing most of the side quests plus the two DLC missions, and I was level 25. At most, he was one level lower than me. So, according to the game, in between 2 and Inquisition, Varric managed to retain the memory of all the events that took place, yet somehow forgot how to fight.

Once again, how does that happen? 

At least in the KOTOR games, there’s an explanation for why the two main characters, who were badass Jedis before the games started, found themselves learning how to fight and/or use the Force again. Here, there is nothing but questions.

WTF Bioware?

Ghoul Fan Fiction Part 4

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My pal Dane, aka The Black Knight, wasn’t home. From the looks of it,  he hadn’t been here in a long time. That’s why I felt confident that he wouldn’t get upset that I broke in. (Author’s Note: From what I can gather, The Black Knight now resides in the Marvel dimension known as WeirdWorld.)

After getting Amanda settled down, I asked her what was really going on. “Most people don’t know this,” she answered, “but my father was one of the most powerful people in the city. He was the leader of one of the families.”

“If he was a Don, or whatever the hell they call themselves nowadays, how is it that nobody knows that?”

“I asked him that once myself, when I finally caught on to what he did for a living. He reminded me of how he used to laugh at the gangster movies when the leaders would lead from out front to prove how tough they were, that they were in charge. He said it was the heights of arrogance and stupidity to do that because all you were doing was making yourself, and your family, a target.

“It made more sense, he said, to be the man behind the curtain, to be the puppeteer pulling the strings. They can’t take a shot at you if they don’t know you’re there. It was how he protected us.”

“How did you find out what he did? I would think that he didn’t want you to know about it.”

“He didn’t want anybody to know about it. There were only a couple of guys in his organization that knew more than half of what he had going on. I only found out because I stumbled on to the books for the restaurant and studied them. I figured it would be a good way for me to learn more about real world accounting than I could in my accounting class. When I looked them over, I saw some inconsistencies and I confronted him about them. He was laundering money. He told me everything after that.”

“So who’s running things now that he’s gone?”

“There are two guys who are in charge now. Both of them are named John, so we called them by their last names, Cook and Dallos. They’ve been friends with my dad since elementary school. Dallos is the enforcer. Cook is the brains of the operation. They thought my father was just a flunky like them. The orders stopped coming as soon as he died, so it wasn’t long before they figured it out.”

“I doubt that they were thrilled about being kept in the dark like that.”

“If they were angry, they didn’t show it to me. They came to me a couple of days ago saying that they had found all of dad’s files except for those of the restaurant. Apparently, there was something missing from the other files that they really needed and they figured it had to be mixed in with those.

“They said that if I found it for them, they’d make sure I’d be taken care of. I’m still family to them. I said that I’d find the papers for them, but I didn’t care about the money as long as I got to keep the restaurant. Dad really loved that place.”

Amanda’s eyes dropped to the ground at the memory of her father. For a second, I thought she was going to cry, but she pulled herself together. “What happens now,” she asked.

“From what I know about the Punisher, he’s not one to let this drop. At least, not without a good reason. So, I’m going to go give him a good reason.”

“How are you going to do that?”

“I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.”

I turned to her in triumph, a big grin on my face. A deep frown greeted me in return. “Oh, come on,” I protested. “That was the perfect place for that line!” The frown was joined by the shaking of her head. “Whatever. I’m going to go have a chat with the Punisher. You stay right here. This place can’t be traced to you and the only one who can tie me to it in any way is the guy who owns it. Speaking of which, if a guy in black armor, with a wicked looking sword comes in, just tell him you’re with me.”

“A man with a wicked looking sword? Great. I feel safe now.”

“Don’t worry. He won’t hurt you. He’s an Avenger.” Well, he used to be anyway, I said in my head. “Don’t leave this apartment for any reason. We brought enough food with us to last you a few days. I’m not sure I’d trust anything left in his kitchen. I’ll come back as soon as it’s safe. I promise.”

“Are you sure you’re gonna be able to find this guy?”

“I am a detective, you know. Besides, and I hate to have to use another movie quote,  but something tells me that I won’t be finding him. He’ll be finding me.”

Two hours later, thanks to traffic, I was proven right. I unlocked, then opened, my office door to find The Punisher sitting behind my desk. “Tell me where the girl is,” he demanded.

“Or else what,” I countered. “You can’t kill me. I’m already dead. And because of the dead thing, I don’t feel pain anymore, so you can’t torture it out of me either. So, here’s what I propose: Don’t kill the girl, and I’ll …”

“I’m not going to kill the girl. I never was.”

“And I’m supposed to believe that?”

“I’ve been doing this a long time. By now, I can tell who is in the business and who isn’t. She clearly isn’t.”

“You shot at her. I jumped in front to take the bullet.”

“If I shot at her, I would’ve hit her. I shot at you because you made a move towards me.”

“If you weren’t there to kill her, why were you there?”

“I was going to try to scare her into giving me her father’s papers.”

“Why is everyone so eager to get their hands on these papers? From what Amanda said it was just accounting sheets that showed he laundered money through the restaurant.”

The Punisher began talking, but I didn’t hear him. My focus was now on the ghost that had walked through my office door. “I have a son,” the ghost explained. “They were waiting for me when I went to go get him. I thought he’d be safer with me.”

“You should’ve told me,” I whispered. “I could’ve…”

“I’m sorry for getting you into this mess,” the ghost interrupted. “Goodbye.”

I punched the wall as it disappeared. “No!”

“What’s your problem,” the Punisher asked. “Who were you talking to?”

“It’s too late. I’m too late. They killed her. She’s dead.”

“What are you talking about? Who’s dead?”

“Amanda. They killed Amanda.”

Livia Lone

Anyone who has followed this here blog for a while may have seen me post before about how I’m a fan of Barry Eisler. In particular, his John Rain series of books, about a half Japanese/half American hitman operating primarily in Tokyo. His other books include a couple about a military contractor named Ben Treven and a standalone about the CIA’s surveillance program. While those weren’t as good as the John Rain books, I still really liked them. So, when I was in the library the other day and saw he had a new one out, I grabbed it without even looking to see what it was about. 

That was my mistake. 

Livia is a woman who somehow escapes from a human trafficking ring, becomes a cop, and then illegally uses that position to try to find her sister, who wasn’t able to escape with her.

Now, it wouldn’t be so bad except that there are flashback sequences that detail what happened when Livia was 14, her sister was 12, and their parents sold them into captivity. I don’t want to hear about that.

I know some people out there might think that I’m just trying to bury my head in the sand or not admit that there’s a problem. That’s not the case. I know that human trafficking exists. It’s becoming an even bigger epidemic and it makes me sick to my stomach that people out there are going through those kinds of things every day. 

However, when I read a book, no matter what the genre, I want to be entertained. I’m not going to finish this book because it is not entertaining.

To me, there’s nothing entertaining about what happens to 14 and 12 year old girls at the hands of human traffickers. 

Ghoul Fan Fiction Part 3

The Punisher’s eyes locked onto Amanda. I pulled out my pistol. “Back off,” I warned.

Without looking at me, he asked, “New bodyguard?”

She stayed silent. In the moments that followed, I couldn’t help but ask myself what I was doing. Fifteen minutes ago I was perfectly fine with letting fate take its course. Now that her imminent death is right in my face, my conscience is apparently having second thoughts. Sometimes I hate having a conscience. When I get done with this situation I may have to squish a cricket.

“I’m not a bodyguard. I’m a private detective. And, unlike someone in the room, I’m actually licensed to carry a firearm.” He was unimpressed with my bravado. Still, my best chance at getting her out of this alive was to get his attention onto me. “So, how does it feel to live your life as a  hypocrite?”

That one kind of worked. His face was still stuck on her, but his eyes flicked over to me. I pressed, “That’s right, I’ve heard about you. They say that you go around killing criminals, murderers, but you’re nothing more than a murderer yourself.”

Instead of getting angry, he smirked. He knew what I was trying to do. His eyes going back to Amanda, he growled, “You shouldn’t have tried to take over your father’s business.”

Obviously, there’s a lot more than just a restaurant at stake here, but I didn’t have time to ponder it. The Punisher pulled a sawed off shotgun from a holster on his back. He moved, what seemed to me to be, impossibly quick. Before I knew what had happened, the shotgun went off and I was standing in front of Amanda.  Despite the fact that the scene should now be chaotic, I found that both of them were just staring at me in shock.

“What,” I asked as I looked down to take inventory of myself.

The first thing I noticed was that the shotgun had blown off my left arm at the shoulder. My arm was now lying on the floor beside me, with my magic  ring still attached to my finger. They now saw what I really looked like. “Dammit,” I muttered. It’s been a while since I’ve had to pick a piece of myself off the ground.

Before the Punisher could recover, I fired two shots from the pistol I still held in my other hand. The bullets hit him center mass and he stumbled to the ground. I knew that someone in his line of work had to be wearing some kind of body armor. That meant I  didn’t have long before he was up on his feet again. I picked my arm up off of the floor and used it to push Amanda back towards the kitchen. She hesitantly started moving along side of me as I reattached my left arm. As soon as it popped back into place, I appeared to be a normal human again.

“What the hell are you,” she cried as we burst through the back door into an alleyway.

“Right now I’m the guy saving your life,” I snapped. “But if you’d rather focus on my grotesque appearance, I’ll leave you here for him.”

“No, don’t leave me!”

Without a word, I grabbed her arm and pulled her with me. We were almost to the street when I heard the door slam behind me. I glanced over my shoulder and saw that he was turning to follow us. There was no way we were going to outrun him, so I’d need to do something else. Just as I reached the lip of the alley, I  stopped, turned, and fired.

In my old world,  I was a decent shot with a gun. Since I came here, I made it a point to practice shooting once a week. I knew that I’d need to do it eventually and, thankfully, it was a long time before I was proven right. Granted, I’m still not as good of a shot as the Punisher is, but all I need to do is be good enough.

And I was.

My shots were meant to do two things. The first was to come close enough to the Punisher’s head that he’d have to duck. They were. The second was to cause a panic in the streets. They did. In and out of the chaos we weaved until I was sure that we had lost our pursuer. “What now,” she asked as I hailed us a cab.

“Now we need to get someplace safe,” I answered as I opened the door for her. “You and me need to have a talk.”