What Dread Hand? Bone White Butterfly

Hi. Thanks for clicking.
What Dread Hand? is a mystery. In short, Terry was working on his biggest case yet, an infiltration of an illigal cult that worships cats, crime, and Splicing. Somewhere down the line, something went wrong, and he had to disappear. Max is left trying to find him & the people who hurt him, and she won't stop until she makes things right. He left her a clue before he went AWOL, but she doesn't even know she has it. Even worse, the answer is in plain sight, but she can't see it.

The story is told in two parts that more or less switch off:
Terry's point of view during the summer before things went to Hell,

Max's point of view after he disappears.
so you get two stories in one.

Insert witty disclaimer stating "BWB didn't create Batman / won't accept money for it…unless they insist" here
Friday, July 5 2042, 04:54:21

The eco-friendly asphalt was spongy after enduring the city's annual heat wave. Max squished along with a cheerful bounce to her step, though that had more to do with the springy blacktop than her bubbly personality, which wouldn't kick in 'til noonish. At five in the morning, she was in a black mood. God help any early bird Jokers that might prance her way.

A crisp wind, the forerunner of a frigid autumn, cut through the crooked alleyways and stabbed her in the back. The street was oblivious to the chill, remaining the temperature and consistency of gooey brownie, but the girl shivered and pulled her thin jacket tighter across her body. She muttered that ice blue was the most stupid color for a poor excuse of a thermal coat, and then glared at the air when she realized her breath wasn't even freezing. It was far too cold for exhalation to be invisible.

She switched her ratty backpack to her other shoulder as she entered the parking lot of the 24 hour diner, a lovingly preserved slice of 20th century perfection. Argon and xenon glowed in electrically charged glass tubes. Stainless steel plated every inch of the rectangular diner except for the windows, which were really cunning vidscreens. They ran idyllic Nighthawks-type scenes constantly,in whichsmoking doll faces with cement spray hair talked coyly to their male partners, who were generally toothpick toting mugs encased in trench coats.

The owner was obviously obsessed, but it made for an interesting time, and it was the only decent place open before sunrise. Unfortunately, the diner was Ground Level, and for a pedestrian the short walk from the elevator to the safety of the parking lot became a trial in bravery in the dark. Max was managing it quite well. She'd actually walked, as opposed to making a mad dash, this time.

She cut through the mostly empty lot towards the door, her shadow long and wraithlike under the streetlights. The vidscreen windows weren't smart enough to send a partial reflection of herself back at her, but the polished steel plating acted like a funhouse mirror. She paused and went up on her toes, suddenly growing twelve feet tall with a needle for a head. Squatting, she marveled how she was now four times as wide as she was tall, like an obese Oompa Loompa. She contemplated tinting her skin orange and getting a white root job and going around singing in base with her midget brethren, then laughed at the mental image.

Tearing up, she opened her eyes, and the mirth on her face died. Right behind her reflection was that of a tall, dark, and terrifying monster. She whirled around, but the man lording over her was worse than his reflection. Dirty and torn, his dark clothes were all that she could see of him. The hood of a sweatshirt was thrown over his face and his hands dug into pockets. She couldn't determine the color of his skin in the one glance she gave him before launching herself at the diner's door.

Her scream was trapped inside her mouth by the brute's hand. It was too much to say he had dragged her away fighting. He picked her up and carried her off, simply cradling her in one arm like a she was no more than a fussy infant throwing a fit. They passed by one of the diner's windows, but it was too much to hope that one of the early birds inside had seen. The inside vidscreen windows aired scenes of 1920s street life, not modern ones of pretty young women being carried off by thugs three times their diminutive size.

She pounded, kicked, and pulled at the hand clamped over her mouth with all the apparent strength of a flea. He hardly seemed to notice her at all as he strolled towards a twisted alley. She made her final decision on the matter then and there. Her life—what little of it she had left—sucked!

The monster went deep into the alley's shadows, his heavy footsteps scattering rats big enough to swallow Thanksgiving turkeys whole. Then he dropped her into the grime, in a spot where countless alley cats had given birth. He had to be psychic, or know her damned well, because just when she'd prepped her ear piercing, heard for miles shriek, his hand was squishing her mouth again. Then he yanked down his hood, revealing pale skin, cold eyes, a scraggly goatee, and a glinting nose ring. It was a face only a best friend could love—could was the key word.

She yanked his hand off her face. "McGinnis, I'm goin' to fucking kill you!" she snarled. "What is this, some sort of sick joke?"

Terry looked down at her, startled. His big blue eyes looked tiny in comparison to the dark circles beneath them. "Yes, yes it is a joke," he muttered, turning away, "and it's on me." He went to a pile of rotted something or other, pulled a tied off trash bag from the center of it, and had the guts to drop it into her lap. Kneeling, he grabbed her shoulders, finally getting the message to her that nothing about their meeting was funny and that something was seriously wrong. He wasn't a human touch kind of guy. "Max, you didn't see me," he stated, forcing it to be the truth. "Go into the diner, eat breakfast, spend the whole day normal. Listen to me; this needs to get to Bruce. It's important he gets it."

She looked down at the trash bag. It just looked smelly to her. Then he was pressing something small into her hand and sweeping her up in a desperate embrace. He pulled away just as suddenly as if ashamed. She opened her hand and looked at the piece of jewelry resting against the rosy flesh of her palm.

"I'm sorry," she heard him whisper.

"What for?" she demanded, looking up, and then gawked. Terry had vanished. The alley was empty except for her and the sumo rats.