3. Dawn Breaks

It was when he heard the gunshots that Todd Murphy wished he was somewhere else. Anywhere in the whole world, really. He wasn't picky. Just not here, and not definitely not now. He ran toward what he thought was roughly the direction of the noise, a feeling of dread growing in the pit of his stomach. Murphy sincerely hoped this was nothing to do with Darkman. He knew that it was more likely than not, though even Dr Campion at the hospital hadn't seen him since that time five weeks ago. The man freaked him out. There was an intensity to him that Murphy found disturbing. And Murphy really didn't like the dark. But still he ran on, toward his duty.

It took him over forty minutes to find the place. The back alleys of the city are a maze. It is not unknown for wayward travellers to fall foul of the denizens here, where perpetual twilight reigns during the day, and a deep darkness falls at night. Few of these denizens are foolish enough to attack an armed, nervous police officer chasing a gunshot of course, but Murphy was not to know this. Nor would this knowledge have made any difference to his state of mind. Fear will do that to a man.

Murphy arrived on the scene breathless, gun in hand. There was nobody to shoot at, only a figure, prostrate on the ground. Murphy approached cautiously. As he got closer, he saw the man's clothes. He knew it was a man, for he knew only one who dressed in this fashion, in an old gentleman's dress coat. He saw the hat nearby. Only the Darkman dressed this way. He gripped his gun tighter, and moved even closer. It was then that he saw the blood.

Smackwater Jack's head hurt a lot. He had been lucky he thought, as he lapsed in and out of consciousness. The Darkman had been thrown off his stride by the gunshots, hadn't been able to strike properly. Jack could barely move as it was. He'd only managed to crawl around the corner a couple of minutes before the police officer had arrived, and hadn't made it far enough into the shadows of the next alley to avoid a thorough search. One quick look at the officer himself, however, told Jack that a thorough search was not something to worry about. The man was terrified, too terrified to venture further than he had to into the darkness.

Jack smiled with relief. Now his only concern was to get medical attention before something bad happened to him out in the alleyway. He was known here, and was confident that his reputation would provide him safety for a short time, but the longer he was here, injured, immobile, the more dangerous his situation became. People were scared of Jack, and he knew that Fear was Power and that Power has always been Law.

But now it was time to move. He gripped his shotgun more tightly.

*****

Hospitals were depressing. Then again, thought Dr Sally Campion, everywhere was depressing at this time in the morning. She ran a hand through her hair, got up from her desk and headed for the bathroom. She had to wash her face. It had been an awful night. At least she could go home to bed in a couple of hours. No more night shifts for a week. This knowledge might have cheered her up a little if she hadn't seen a police officer running down the corridor toward her. She sighed. It had to be...

"Sergeant Murphy. What can I do for you? Have you seen our friend recently?"

"He's here," the man panted. "He's injured."

This stopped Campion in her tracks. The sergeant had been in every couple of days asking questions ever since the Darkman incident. She kept telling him that Peyton Westlake (for that is his name, she repeatedly reminded the policeman) was a severely unbalanced individual who would probably never show his disfigured face again.

Murphy was obviously under the delusion that Westlake cared for justice. A mistaken impression, Campion knew, patently mistaken. She had thought him a scientist, though. She thought he would contact her in that capacity. She had been wrong again. Another dead end in her dying career. Westlake and his synthetic skin had been her last chance. And now, weeks later, he was here?

"What happened?"

"I was on night patrol, I found him in an alleyway, I heard a gunshot, he's... he's been shot, and I don't know who did it, I didn't look much further, it doesn't pay to be too curious round there, if you know what I'm saying, I just thought..." Murphy was slowly turning an unhealthy shade of blue in his attempt to detail the situation in less than sixty seconds.

"Sergeant, you can stop to take a breath if you like."

"Yes, but..."

She tried to compose herself. "Don't worry sergeant, I'm on my way now. Where did they put him?"

"He's in a secure ward, Sally, restrained and under guard. We don't want your monsters running around this hospital." He said that without moving his lips, she thought, until it occurred to her that Murphy probably hadn't learned how to throw his voice, and that the response had actually come from behind her. It was too early in the morning for this rubbish. She turned.

"Dr Simons. Good morning. We weren't expecting you for another hour or so." She tried to keep the disdain from her voice. "Is 'monsters' a medical term now?"

"Yes, I came in early," he replied, a raised eyebrow his only acknowledgement of her jibe. I think somebody was asking for you down in the secure ward. After all, this thing is one of your, er... patients, isn't it?"

"Yes." She brushed past Simons and headed down the corridor. "And his name is Peyton Westlake!" she shouted at him. So much for going home. She was going to be here for some time longer.

Pain was not an issue for Peyton Westlake. He felt none. He could feel broken bones, he could feel burned flesh, he could feel open wounds, he felt all of this in detail in his conscious moments, but he felt no pain. It was physically impossible for him to feel pain. So he had to concentrate very hard on feeling something else, and it wasn't easy when he was drifting in and out of consciousness. If he didn't, he knew that he could break these bands holding him to the bed, and then he'd end up breaking somebody's head, and that wouldn't go down well with hospital security.

He was finding it difficult to stay conscious and focussed. He'd lost too much blood. [lost? no! taken, stolen, shot - shot - Yakitito!] and he wanted revenge [No! I must remain in control, concentrate!] and he could escape and...

Stars exploded behind his eyes and all he felt was rage. Then he heard somebody shout his name, a woman [Julie?], and he sank into the bed once more, the fire behind his eyes quenched by the tears that now welled up. Through the haze of semi-consciousness, he saw a woman's face ["Julie!"] look over him. He wanted to hide himself away from her. She couldn't see him, he couldn't allow it; he felt this more strongly and more acutely than ever before. And the sorrow was unbearable.

Before he fell into darkness once again, he considered that he was not completely without pain.

Murphy was worried. He was worried that someone would find out that the Darkman was in the hospital. Campion had just shouted his real name loud enough for everybody to hear. He would have to mention that to her sometime. He was the one who had insisted on a secure ward, allowing only Campion access to him. He had also removed the man's coat and hat (he had not been wearing his bandages) before the ambulance team had arrived. The alleyway had actually had a name, though he was surprised that they were willing to venture down the back streets in the dark. That's a sense of duty alright, he thought.

Murphy knew all about duty. It was linked to power He watched Campion attend the Darkman's wounds, watched her doing her duty. He himself, well, he'd been doing his duty all night, and now he was here fulfilling it again. They both had power, of one sort or another, and using one's power properly, well that was duty, wasn't it? But the Darkman himself? He was lying there, shot after a back-street brawl. He was shirking his duty. But Murphy had no power over the Darkman. He couldn't force him to do anything. He would have to accept his duty on his own terms. Murphy feared that Peyton Westlake would not live long enough to do that. Murphy suspected that, right now, Peyton Westlake would not mind that at all. And then what hope would there be?

What was it he'd said? It sounded like a name, 'Julie'. Sally Campion filed it away for future information. After all, she was building up a picture of this man. She could finally add something else to his file. That was reassuring for her, as she extracted the rifle rounds from his body, and cleaned the wounds. She liked order. Which was ironic, because she had created disorder in the mind of Peyton Westlake. Only willpower could keep Westlake sane. He was certainly capable of it. It was a question of whether or not he actually wanted to control his urges, his rampant emotions - his anger.

It seemed to Campion that Westlake wanted to cultivate his anger rather than control it. He would allow it to grow and increase until it consumed his enemies. He would find it difficult, she knew. From there, his anger would keep on growing and he would not be able to stop it. Then it would consume him also. She sighed as she dressed the wounds and stepped back to look at the man lying on the bed, at his ravaged face. Unblemished skin remained only around his eyes and upper left cheek. The rest of his face was horribly scarred. His lips were had all but been burnt off, and his teeth were all visible. And he would destroy himself, she knew. Despite all his brilliance and genius, he would destroy himself. And he didn't even realise it.

"Will I live?"

The question took her by surprise. She hadn't expected him to be awake. She collected herself. "In the short term, yes. The wounds aren't infected, and given your powers of recovery, you should be mended in a week."

"Excellent. If you would be so kind as to undo these restraints, I'll be leaving now."

"However," continued Campion, giving no sign that she had heard him, "in the long term I'd say somebody's going to shoot you again, and if they have any sense they'll shoot you in the head and then there'll be nothing I can do for you."

"Doctor, please don't lecture me. I would remind you that I am a scientist, and perfectly capable of making rational decisions."

"No," she said, deciding to push her luck, "you are a freak, you are dangerous, and you are staying here!"

Westlake's face changed in an instant. His brows shot down, his mouth curled into a terrifying snarl his eyes narrowed, and a flame was lit behind them. The transformation was frightening in its alarming suddenness. Campion braced herself to run for it. She had gone too far.

Then his face relaxed again, and he let out one of his rasping chuckles. "You will not bait me that easily, Dr Campion. Now let me out of here. I have work to do."

She hadn't expected him to do that. Perhaps his control had improved more than she gave him credit for. "Your work. The synthetic skin."

"Yes."

"You haven't been back here since I helped you last. You haven't told me anything about your progress."

"Because there has been no progress."

It was now that she began to reconsider her last assessment. She looked into his eyes. There was anger there. A great, fiery anger that was barely concealed below the surface. She looked more closely at him. He was tense, very tense, and it belied the calm expression on his face. Well, except for the eyes. Perhaps his control isn't so good after all. He's just learning to hide it. From himself as well, I think.

"Fine. So you're just going to leave now, then? Go back to your warehouse and hide?"

"Yes. I am. Just as soon as you release me." Westlake's impatience was growing, and it showed in his voice.

"Fine." She over to him, not breaking eye contact, hoping that she could last out. It wasn't easy to stare defiantly into those eyes. They were truly terrible. Whatever the expression on his face, she could look straight into his mind through those eyes. For all his efforts, he was unguarded. He had been stripped of more than his ability to feel pain. All vestiges of pretence were gone, his civilised mask had been burnt away, and all could see what was underneath it. No wonder he hid behind bandages, and covered himself with darkness. He was undefended and unprotected against the world. She felt sorry for him. But he still scared her.

So she was surprised when he looked away from her. She unfastened the restraints and stepped back, but not too far. She wasn't going to cower in his presence not now she had the upper hand.

"Thank you, Doctor." He stood, but still did not meet her gaze. "Now, could you please ask the good sergeant Murphy to bring me my hat and coat? I would also be grateful if you could find me some bandages for my face." He looked up suddenly, at the door. "Ah, sergeant Murphy. Do come in."

Campion looked at the door in shock as it opened, and Murphy entered cautiously. He looked like a rabbit skewered by the headlight beams of an eighteen-wheeler. "Well come on man! What are you waiting for?" cried Westlake, sounding for all the world like a deranged Sherlock Holmes. Murphy scurried in, and handed Westlake his clothes and a roll of bandage, with an expression close to awe on his face. It was almost comical.

Sally shook herself and took control once more. "Mr Westlake is leaving now, sergeant. I believe you also have duties to return to?" She looked quickly over at Westlake, and saw his expression darken when she called him by his real name. The cloud past almost as soon as it arrived, however, and when he saw her looking at him he averted his gaze once more. He wrapped the bandage around his head, started to put on his coat, and then decided better of it. Coat and hat in hand, he headed for the door.

The doctor allowed him to put his hand to the door before saying, "Someone tried to kill you today." Westlake stopped, frozen. "Who was it?"

He turned his head toward her and made eye contact again. His eyes were all she could see of his face through the bandages. There was a hard edge to the anger in them now, an edge that hadn't been there earlier. He seemed more confident. Something had changed in the last minute. Whatever it was, she was no longer in charge here.

"He was an assassin. A hired killer. And he won't be the last." His growling voice was harder now as well, more determined it seemed. Moments ago he had been almost vulnerable. What had changed? He opened the door. "There's a storm coming," he said.

Then the Darkman was gone.