It's New York, New York, in the grand old year of 1976.
The city is filthy, the citizens are filthier. But after awhile, you really develop a filter in your vision; you don't see most of it, can't be offended by the whores grabbing at you while you walk by on the sidewalk, or bothered by the fact that you'll step over a bum or two on the path to wherever you're going in this rainy city. And it is rainy. It's raining right now, actually, as people soaked like rats duck into buildings for shelter or hide underneath umbrellas.
One young man, unfortunately, doesn't have even that much, and is holding a newspaper over his head as he walks through the icy rain, miserable. Under the low light of the streetlamps, he's nothing but a phantom in his ratty black trenchcoat, one buttoned up all the way to his chin, and luckily, one that has fabric that won't absorb the rainwater so easily. His face is feminine, pale and flawless, high cheekbones and large lurid green eyes with long girlish lashes, pouty lips that women would die for, and his long brunette ponytail plastered to his back by the rain. Under the low light and the night-blackened clouds, he looks just like a woman.
Michael Lancaster is very aware of this, and it unnerves him to no end. Especially when he's walking alone down the night streets, trying to dodge his way back home. Using his free hand, the one not already stained by cheap black ink, he pushes his round frame glasses higher on the bridge of his nose and navigates the sidewalk, hurrying a little more when he sees the mouth of a particularly dark alleyway up ahead of him. The streetlamp illuminating it went out long ago, leaving that particular spot treacherous for anyone, especially an easy target like him. He's a young man of frail physical condition; little muscle, unskilled in any particular styles of self-protection, not to mention quite feeble in willpower. He's been mugged at this spot before, and is always inwardly nervous when he crosses the mouth of the alley every night after he gets off of work, a low-paying job at a grocer's.
When he sets foot in front of the alley's mouth, he keeps his eyes focused straight ahead and won't even dare look into the inky blackness directly to his left. That is, until something hits the left side of his head, a hard blow that sends him reeling. Black spots bloom in his vision as he cries out, a weak shout of pain and surprise, but it chokes off suddenly when an arm hooks around his face, his mouth muffled in the crook of someone's arm, and he's dragged into the alleyway dizzy and kicking and whimpering. His cheap leather shoes kick against the slick wet concrete, but he can't get a good footing and so flies quite helplessly into the back of the alley when he's thrown into the trash cans there, crumpling against the dirty brick wall with one arm draped awkwardly over a trash can overturned, laying on its side on his right.
"Hey honey," He hears a male voice ahead of him, and his stomach sinks as soon as he realizes the thug's mistake, "Don't hurry so fast. Keep me company, eh?" Michael struggles to clear his vision, to see through the darkness in the alley and spot his attacker, and opens his mouth to speak.
"I'm not-" He begins, in a veritable squeak, but there are suddenly hands gripping him by the front of his coat, pulling his thin frame up and pinning him against the wall. He can smell strong alcohol on the other man, and there's a terror in him slowly growing with every moment the attacker becomes more riled up, more expectant of getting something he's very mistaken of.
"Don't be like that," The voice isn't slurred, the man doesn't sound drunk, maybe just tipsy enough to have the courage to do something like this but not completely wasted. "You look like you need to have more fun." Buttons fly as he practically rips the ratty old trenchcoat open, and Michael tries to explain again, even through the very unpleasant sensation of hands roaming where they shouldn't be. It's disturbing him, yes, but he'd rather be disturbed by an attempted molestation than be stabbed by a pissed off attacker mortified in molesting another man.
"I'm not a wo-" Michael starts again, before he gets slapped. And it hurts. Of course, he happens to squeal in surprise and terror, like a woman, which only spurs his attacker on. So Michael remains silent, waiting for the exact moment when he can see that the other man realizes his mistake. And it's obvious, even in the low light; the expression, barely visible, changes from lascivious eagerness to confusion to a blank stare, then slowly to anger and then to rage. His white undershirt, now soaked by the rain, is grasped tightly, and his back is slammed against the brick wall much harder than before; his head slams against the brickwork and he sees stars, reels from the impact.
"You're a fucking faggot!" The attacker roars, slams him against the wall again, and then hurls him to the pavement. "A goddamn tranny!"
"I tried to tell you..." Michael slurs out, dizzy beyond belief, head pounding, "...that I wasn't a woman..." He'd like to point out that he's not a transvestite, because he's not actually dressed as a woman, but right now isn't the time, he thinks, and instead tries to figure out a way to talk himself out of this one. He sits up, hand on his pounding head, and sees the silvery glint of a knife blade, instantly panics; "W-wait! We don't need to get violent!" He squeals like a pig, scooting back against the brick wall until his back is fully flat against it, but the man opposite him stalks forward slowly, purposefully; like a predator.
"Homo, huh? I seen enough of you freaks in this city," The man growls, vitriol in his very body language, "And I'm sick of seein' all of you." Michael screams in terror, his tone high and effeminate and piercing, and he hides his face in his hands, not wanting to see the end. It's only when the end doesn't come and there's noise before him instead, a surprised shout, the noise of a scuffle, that he finally lifts teary eyes to see the attacker subdued, and one can almost trace the path that the man took; a leap towards Michael, where he was caught and his momentum was used against him to slam him into the wall, face-first, before being slammed into the ground. Michael himself stares in awe at the coated figure currently walking, stalking, over to the man with a purposeful step, standing beside the crouched, groaning attacker's form for a moment in an almost thoughtful, contemplative nature, before brutally slamming his heel into the hand outstretched for the fallen knife. The attacker wails in pain, a low, horrible sound that chills Michael to the core, as does the quiet but very audible crunching of finger bones.
A moment later, Michael squeals in terror when the attacker's form is hurled, not tossed, not thrown, but hurled into the dumpster he's still sitting beside, and he raises awe-filled eyes to his savior.
"Should leave," He hears the man (he can identify the voice, though incredibly gravelly, as a male's) growl, and stares wide-eyed. The thing he's staring at, more than anything else, is the constantly-shifting patterns of the mask his rescuer wears. "Police coming soon. Scream like woman. Think woman is in danger. Won't be happy to find transvestite instead." That's all the warning Michael gets, as his rescuer quickly turns and walks towards the mouth of the alley. Panicked, Michael starts after him, crawling on hands and knees, awed and dismayed and thankful beyond belief.
"Wait!" He calls, desperately, and though he sort of wants to state that he is, in fact, not a transvestite, that can come later, after gratitude. The form of his rescuer does not falter, doesn't slow down a bit at his cry. "What's your name?" He hears a grunt in reply, and gets no answer as his rescuer disappears into the night, mysteriously. It's almost like something out of those romance movies his mother watched late at night, when the woman is saved from a horrible fate by the mysterious and rugged hero, and the two of them are fated to be together by the end of the movie. That's what Michael thinks of, as he just sits there on his knees, and stares at the empty mouth of the alleyway now illuminated with flashing reds and blues.
It's New York, New York, in the grand old year of 1984.
There are kids selling lemonade in the suburbs, and kids selling crack on the streets. The temperature for this particular late summer night is in the sixties, around seventy five a la Urban Island Effect. But the heat doesn't make the night any brighter, and though the sky is clear and the moon is visible, hanging heavy and oppressing over the thick city, there's still an equally thick air of something resembling winter on the heaving shoulders of every working class man and woman walking the streets, trying to get home before the real shady business starts. And on this particular night, one Michael Lancaster glances over his shoulder now and again, while opening the door to his apartment and locking it behind him. He looks basically the same as he did back in the seventies, which was basically the same as he looked growing up in the sixties; long brunette hair in a ponytail, round-frame glasses, black trenchcoat for warmth, a button-up work shirt and black work slacks. The tenement building he resides in is dirty, and noisy, and no matter how hard he tries, he can't get the smell of the city out of the rooms. But it's home, and it's his place to relax after a long, hard day at the barber's shop he works at, cutting hair for a living.
He walks into his bedroom, and stares out the window at the city and all its lights. This long moment is silent, as even the crying (and noisy, very noisy) children in the apartment to his apartment's left fall strangely silent for a minute.
"Ah," Michael sighs, and though his normal tone of voice is meek, quiet, the 'seen and not heard' rule firmly ground into his nature and mannerisms, this voice is not his, is someone else's entirely, and that's what he adores about having it all to himself. It lilts, high and expressive and loud, the missing half of his personality. "This city is so dirty! Not one night can I sleep peacefully without feeling inclined, no, obligated to save her. But," He clasps his hands together, pressing them to his left cheek with a long, wistful sigh, his long-lashed eyes batting as he stares longingly at nothing at all, "I guess a lady of my profession does sacrifice some things for the satisfaction of a job well-done, hm?" He giggles here, a soft feminine noise of amusement, already flouncing his way to the closet. He throws it open, theatrically, and pulls out a huge trunk hidden behind a mound of old clothing, dragging it along to the bathroom with well-hidden strength. When there, he closes the bathroom door behind him and sets to dressing up.
The entire process of putting on his costume takes around two hours, mainly because Michael's such a stickler for perfection, and once finished, he examines himself in the mirror, fluttering his eyes at his reflection as he does. Tight black slacks fitted for accentuating a woman's hips, hanging purposefully low on his own, a tight red tube top with a bra on under it (for definition!), with gorgeous cherry red stiletto heel boots and a long woman's coat to match, brilliant, cherry red and hanging low on his shoulders, baring all of his arm above the elbow.
"Beautiful!" Michael squeals, pleased, before digging in his case for the final touch. "And with this little addition..." He murmurs, already applying his mascara and eyeliner, red eyeshadow as well, before finishing off with bright red whorish lipstick. He loves the color, and makes sure to wink at himself in the mirror when he's done. "Mwah! Pretty." He puts his makeup case away, leaves his normal work clothes out to change into on the fly when he gets home, grabs his two or three favorite knives and slips them into his belt, and spirits out the window he was staring out of as Michael Lancaster only hours before. Now, he's no longer the meek, quiet, sexually tormented Michael Lancaster; he's the free, extravagant, flaming transvestite vigilante, the Jackal, and he's so happy he could just vomit joy.
Sure, he could've just left the vigilante work to the more well-equipped people, and he had initially planned to; he admired vigilantes greatly, ever since a certain one saved his life back in the seventies, but at first had no intentions of joining their ranks. After all, only the really crazy people dressed up like superheroes and started beating up criminals to relief frustration with their personal lives. Which is kind of what happened with Michael, to be honest, but he realized that a long, long time ago. Well, he had planned to leave the vigilantism to the vigilantes, the real ones, until the Keene Act passed and most of them went into retirement.
'We all know,' Jackal muses, climbing out his apartment window and sliding down the fire escape ladder, making a quick dash across the small fire escape platform and leaping to a shorter building to some small grocer's, squashed between two huge tenement buildings, before walking slowly and thoughtfully across the rooftop and to the wooden board serving as his walkway to the next building, 'That vigilantes are needed nowadays. Sure, we're all pretty out of our minds, but that's just a requirement for dressing up like lunatics and beating the hell out of criminals.'
As he crosses the wooden board (placed there at an earlier time, mainly when he was plotting out his patrol routes through his small section of the city), his heels clicking with wooden tones after him, he laughs and doesn't bother to make it quiet; who's going to climb up here and stop him from laughing?
"We're all completely out of our minds!" He laughs, already examining his nails; painted a bright red, just earlier that night. "But, that's what makes us, us. We'd have to be lunatics to even consider this thankless job." He may know it's a thankless job, but he loves it, no matter what anyone would say about him. "It's a thankless job," Jackal looks up at the stars, smiling adoringly, "But somebody's got to do it! And why not the lunatics?"
He falls quiet when he thinks he hears a scuffle, a muffled scream for help, and curiosity propels him to peek over the side of the building, the hair he's temporarily dyed a puissant shade of red (he can't always have red hair, and so will spend a couple hours later on painstakingly scrubbing it out) hanging limply in his line of view. he brushes it out, huffing frustratedly as he does, and watches as a man advances on a cornered woman. Another one? Jackal rolls his eyes. Another woman getting assaulted by some creep in an alleyway.
'I know it's a serious problem,' Jackal ponders, as the woman screams fruitlessly for help and the man lunges, Jackal himself already aiming for his landing, 'But it's so cliche! I remember when we had a better class of criminal, when people had imagination and creativity in their wrongdoing.' He drops, and the height is a little high for a drop like this but not enough to really cause problems, as he rolls when he hits the ground and rolls right back onto his feet. Too much practice doing this maneuver.
"In the name of the moon," He cries, theatrically, pointing up at the moon as the man turns around, bewildered, but Jackal eventually pats himself down and huffs, indignantly. "Nevermind, that joke is so old. In the name of my stiletto, I'm going to put it up your ass; how does that sound?" He quips, smiling sweetly at the man, who swears under his breath about fucking psychopaths dropping out of nowhere and decides to carve something into Jackal instead. The vigilante-wannabe is quick, though, grabbing a nearby trash can lid and hurling it like a discus with precision, catching the attacker in the throat. Walking over to the fallen criminal, he makes sure to give the man a few kicks in the ribs for good measure, a little disappointed that he's not offering more of a fight.
"Pathetic! And you call yourself a rapist." His disappointment grows when the man is already unconscious by the fifteenth or so kick, and so Jackal turns to the woman, walking towards her. She looks like your everyday working woman, now flattened against the brick wall. "C'mon honey, let's go, before he wakes up and starts staggering at yo-" Jackal starts, offering a hand to the woman with little interest. She jerks away from him, and something angry and hot ignites in the vigilante's heart. She's disgusted by him. She doesn't want him to touch her. His eyelids slowly lower, until his eyes themselves are half-lidded, almost a dreamy look in them, whilst he slowly reaches for his belt.
"Do you think you're better than me?" He asks, very softly, very quietly, deadly calm, ignoring the fact that she might've just been terrified of his random appearance and taking out of the attacker. Fairness isn't his game, never has been. She instinctively knows something is wrong here, something is wrong with the sudden change in her rescuer, and she tries to run, begins to scream. Jackal lunges, quicker than she, his hand closing in a vice grip around her windpipe and pinning her against the wall, and he watches her choke passionlessly. "You do, don't you?" He asks her, leaning in until the two of them are face-to-face, whispering the words against her skin. "You think I'm just some...freak. A crazy, a loony just running around saving your ungrateful asses day and night. This city is so...ungrateful of what I do. Of the time I put into vigilantism. But..." He sighs, wistfully, and tightens his grip on her windpipe as she tries to scream, tries to flee, while he strokes the flat edge of the butcher knife down her left cheek in an almost adoring caress. "I'm really just like you, except a little...kinder. A little more caring. A little more..." He strokes her cheek with the knife's flat edge again, this time digging the edge into the flesh of her cheek and carving downwards, with barely-contained rage.
Hours later, the light of dawn is just rising as not Jackal, but Michael Lancaster steps out of the crummy apartment shower, humming a lovely tune as he dries his long once-again-chocolate hair. Half a city away, police are taping off a crime scene in a dark alleyway. A woman soaked in blood is dressed in her own entrails, and a thug is insisting in the back of the police cruiser that he never killed the woman, never killed her, that it was the man in red, the one that called himself a woman, that must've done it. Michael Lancaster finishes his shower and will now fill the tub with a special mix of bleach and detergent, to try and hand wash those bloodstains out of his costume. And though he labors with a grim expression, inwardly wondering if he'll ever get them out, he also grins to himself now and then when he thinks of what a good vigilante he is, and how that whore deserved it, and how that rapist deserved waking up with police all around him and a bloody butcher knife in his hand. He won't admit to himself that it's the image of the woman gagged with a strip of cloth ripped from her own shirt, screaming her lungs out, painted in her own blood. He'll never admit that it's that image that makes him smile, makes him sigh.
Because he's a good vigilante. And he's sure that if his idol could see him now, then he'd be very pleased with his work.