(Disclaimer: Original Darkman character setting is not my own, but Sam Raimi's. However, this story is mine. --- Note: I mused about how someone without lips could possibly speak, and figured out he could not do all the labial consonants, as m, p, b, v…. So I tried to adjust Darkman's speech to this a little, hope one can still understand what he says, when he is without his mask.^^)

"I see the fear in your eyes – you try to hide your pain from me,

I can see behind your mask – you got a fragile heart of glass" (BLUTENGEL, Song "Behind your mask"

Chapter 1: The mysterious helper

=== New York / A subway station ===

It had been their graduation party. More or less drunk already and full of fun the little group was on their way through the New York night life. One by one filed away home, until only Claire and her best friend Jenna rested together. They decided to have one last drink in the latest scene club and eventually got stuck there until 4 o'clock in the morning. Suddenly, Jenna felt sick and could barely manage it out on the street before throwing up. Claire wanted to call her a taxi, however as usual when needed the cabs were everywhere but there on the spot.

"There's a …sub station…" Jenna murmured and tried in vain to put her messy hair in order. "Think… gonna … make it."

"I don't think this is a good idea", replied Claire. "Let's go inside again and call a cab!"

"No… need fresh air! I'm just fine… walking…let's go to the subway!"

The two girls stumbled towards the next subway entrance. Shortly after they sat on the station and waited for what seemed an eternity. Some shifters arrived at the opposite track, and then it was lonely again. Claire could not remember having seen that an empty station in all her life in New York. Granted, she had not been out that long… and she did not use the subway very often. Her overprotective parents would surely be worried…. But what the heck, she was 23 now, and at the moment and after the passed exams she felt over exited and ready for all kind of adventure the world could offer! Perhaps, she thought, I should color my hair black and wear contact lenses instead of these stupid glasses… uh… and I could learn to walk in these high-heels, Jenna likes! Yes, time to finish this mousy existence! She laughed and embraced her friend. Tomorrow she would go and buy some really high-heels…

Finally, Jenna's train arrived and they had to part. With slow, dozy steps Claire went to the staircase. One instant later, she was wide awake, as two strong hands grabbed her. She squeezed her eyes, discerned two guys: a Latino-looking one and a bulky White with tattooed arms. They grinned.

"I… I have 50 bucks…" Claire said hastily and fumbled in her bag.

"Good, take 'em as surplus!" the Latino laughed and tried to rip the girl's jacket open.

She cried and struggled in panic. She knew some Karate, but now she was far too boozy for that. Nonetheless, she got away, but only a second. Then the white boy had her in his grip again. He seemed to have much fun in her futile attempts to escape. "Quite a wild cat, woowoo!" he yelled.

Claire called for help. No one answered; the station was as empty as if they were the last human beings on earth! She got a hit in the face and lost her glasses. Not knowing how, she ended up lying on the rails, one of the boys ready to jump down, too. Without a second thought, she was on her feet and on the run into the tunnel…

When she stopped, totally out of breath, she realized no one had followed her. It was nearly dark around her, only a little light in great distance. It was moving… Claire tried to focus.

A train… O God, a train! Desperately, the girl stretched to move her trembling legs away from the danger. But where? The train was fast, so fast! And she was not fast enough to get into one of the little worker's hide outs. The passing subway grazed her and threw her against the wall.

=== Underground near the shut down City Hall Station ===

Once, he bore the name Peyton Westlake. But this was in another life. A life, long long gone by now. He lived in the darkness of the underground for so many years, that he found the name some people had given to him fitting. 'Darkman'. Yes, a dark man, a shadowy creature hiding by daylight and only emerging at night! He knew there were some myths around about him already, exaggerated stuff the most, like it was the case with myths. The truth was, he was tired. Tired of making his researches without the smallest progress, tired of checking the tests, tired of waiting and tired of hoping. More and more, he felt too tired to even leave this dark cavern for a walk outside. Some years ago, he had lived for his revenge on the ones who where responsible for this miserable existence. But now, he had had his revenge. The criminals were dead; some of them he had killed with his own hands. It had not given him any deeper joy after a first bolt of satisfaction. Their suffering, their deaths could not undo what was done to him, could not give him his old life back, his face, his family, everything he had lost!

With a sigh, he gave up trying to sleep and walked through the twilight of his hiding place. He had covered some of his sensitive equipment with plastic sheets; a thick layer of dust had settled down in the months. It looked as if a bunch of grey-clad ghosts where frozen in their movement by a powerful spell. In between, the remains of an old TV. He had smashed the screen in one of his rages, not willing to hear any more of these stupid advertising like "anti-aging-creams" or "best electronic shaver ever"… all this nonsense! And people out there spent millions to get these items, or they went through plastic surgery to look 20 years younger or more perfect. The thoughts alone made him outraged once. He would give anything to see a wrinkle in his real face!

However, now he was only tired. Too tired to feel any anger and disgust. He let himself fell into the chair in front of the broken tube and stared in the shards, not able to fully suppress his pondering. How old I am now? Which date do we have? … I do not even know anymore the exact date, dammit! It's as if I'm already dead… How old? 42? 43? The Darkman does not know any age… I have the formula of ever lasting youth, you obsessed ones out there…do you want it? His laugh was an ugly sound.

At this moment, Westlake heard a little whining, and discovered one of his animal companions closing in. It was Jerky, a bull terrier. He had found him some months ago, an abandoned puppy nearly dead.

"Hey, 'hat's goin' on? You already had your dinner, 'al!"

The dog whined and barked; he was used to the blurred manner of speech missing some consonants his master was condemned to and man bowed down and padded his back. "Are you u' to a little 'lay? 'iddle o' the night? Ah… 'hat does it 'atter, it is al'ays night here, isn't it, hey?"

The dog barked again. His behaviour was quite unusual. The dog was somewhat nervous, it seemed, and wanted him to follow into the tunnels. What was there? An intruder? None of the alarm systems Westlake had set up so carefully went on… So whatever Jerky was about to show him, must be outside the perimeters of his 'stronghold'! Perhaps a rat nest or something… Nonetheless he traced the dog. Jerky was such a good and loyal friend, like all the animals he had down here. For them, beauty and perfection was not a face or a figure; with their senses they penetrated such superficial things. Why then, should he not please one of his only friends and walk with him to his gorgeous findings?

Claire woke up in the piercing torture of overall pain. She tried to move; it seemed the thought alone was hurting. The train…. I was… hit by the train…. It hammered in her like thunder. Something… someone… touched her. Rats, she thought with horror, but unable to even flinch a bit. Then she saw a silhouette hovering above her. A nightmare… a monster! She wanted to scream. A weak moan was all she could mouth. The she lost concsiousness again.

Slowly, Claire's mind crawled out of the hazy state where it had hidden itself for nearly a day. Her body and head were still aching, but it was not the wretching pain of last time she awoke. She felt better. Had someone found her, brought to a hospital? She turned her head, tried to discern her environment. It was that… dark! No, this couldn't be a hospital's room! Or… was something wrong with her eyes? She panicked instinctively – being blind AGAIN was the most frightening thing she could imagine! While attempting to raise, she recognized her right arm was neatly bandaged, and other patches were around her hands and, she sensed, around her head. She tried to sit up further, but felt gently pushed back the same moment. She could hear a voice now, but not see anything clearly. The voice was male, deep, but soft and with a distinguishing timbre. The times when she had to rely on voices and sounds to imagine her surroundings were long gone, but Claire had kept the habit of paying attention to these things, more than other people. This voice was agreable and not frightening or threatening at all, and she found some confidence in this. Maybe this was not a hospital, however there was someone taking care of her… perhaps this was a shelter for the homeless… or some place of the police? She wanted to speak, to ask, but she sensed her head lifted and a glass of water on her lips. Yes, she was thirsty… And suddenly … very tired again… She sank back, trying to keep her eyes open as she discerned a person walking around her bed. It seemed to be a young man, but no doctor's outfit, no police officer. She was so tired… her thoughts wandered off and her eyelids fell.

=== Bay Ridge / A luxurious manor ===

This place was the opposite of the all-around-the-clock-busy Manhattan with its traffic jam, skyscrapers, noise and hectic – normally. Around the expensive manors along the shore road, it still offered the calm charme of an aristocratic era. However, this morning, it was very busy and very hectic in one of these estates! Dr. Frank Deveraux, owner of a little but precious factory for military technology, walked off and on in front of the police department's chief Captain Baxter, like a tiger in his cage.

"I do not know for what I spend my tax money!" Deveraux shouted for the umpteenth time. "My daughter is missing for 20 hours now, and WHAT DO YOU DO?"

"I'm sorry, I told you, I can't do anything. It's the law. We have to-"

"Law, what's this law, for Christ's sake?! I have the last message by Claire from the 10th, at 10 PM, when she went for the party!"

"Perhaps she is with one of her friends, Dr. Deveraux. They probably had a… quite intoxicating night, and went to sleep there."

"Not my daughter! She would call me, if she couldn't come home! She would not just vanish for 20 hours!" He shouted again. "Besides, I already talked to her friend Jenna. And she said having seen Claire the last time when she boarded her subway! My daughter could be in serious danger, held hostage by some maniac, injured, even killed! And you don't want to give the damn order for a search party!!! Ah, next elections I know who I will vote for!!!"

Anna, Deveraux' wife, put her arms around her husband, trying to prevent herself from crying and in the same moment calm him a bit. "Darling, please, don't get upset that way. Captain Baxter does all he can. You know, a person has to be missing at least 24 hours before the police can jump into action."

"So, if the police does not want to take care of this situation, I'll do it myself! I-" The ringing phone interrupted him. Nearly as fast as Anna, the worried father was there to answer it.

"Hello? Yes, this is Frank Deveraux…"

It was the Lennox Hill Hospital. He turned pale in hearing what they said, then let out an relieved sigh and leaned against the side board. "Anna, they have found Claire!" he whispered in her direction.

=== Lennox Hill Hospital / One of the offices ===

"She was been found in the subway station?" Anna Deveraux couldn't believe it. "AFTER she got medical attention?" As happy as she was to have her daughter back in relatively good shape, this whole thing sounded somewhat silly, as if a responsible person in the hospital tried to cover his or her failure! And after the emotional stress of the past hours, she wanted to vent this somewhere!

The middle aged physician sitting on the desktop repeated: "Yes, as I told you. The cleaning company found her this morning about 3.30 and reported to the local police station. She sat on one of the seats, cleaned and with professionally bandaged arm and under heavy sedatives. That's all I can say, Mr. and Mrs. Deveraux."

"Can we talk to Claire now?"

"Yes." The medic stood up. "Please, follow me." He was looking forward to get rid of these angry parents who seemed ready to sue him and the whole hospital for whatsoever.

Some minutes later, Anna embraced her daughter, and Frank Deveraux took her hand, murmuring with slightly shaky voice: "Claire, my little girl, do you know how worried we were about you!"

"I'm so sorry, Mom, Dad… I'm so sorry…"

"But you are safe, thank God you are safe! Everything is going to be fine, Claire."

Anna caressed her as if she was a little child. "What happened? We talked to Jenna, and she said you where with her in the subway…"

"I was on my way up, to get a taxi. Suddenly there were these guys, attacking me…" Claire covered the face with her hands. "I was so frightened. I ran off, into the subway tunnel. A train grazed me. Then… I don't remember exactly, until I woke up here."

"The doctor said you was found already having had medical attendance, and someone had bandaged your arm. Who had helped you?" If she spoke the truth, Anna Deveraux mused now – and she had no intention to believe her daughter lied – there was someone who deserved their gratitude for rescuing her, at least!

Claire shook her head. "I don't remember. I couldn't see anything… only blurred schemes. Lost my glasses, and it was dark."

A voice, she thought. This voice… But how should I describe a voice? She was sure to recognize it again, though. Someone has helped me… someone living down there…

"Perhaps the memory comes back later, when the shock is over", Frank Deveraux stated. He did not like the prospect his only child had been in the care of someone he did not know and she did not remember – even if obviously no harm had been done to her.

"Can I come home with you?"

"I'm sure you can. I only speak with the doctor in charge."

=== Some days later / Underground near the shut down City Hall Station ===

Westlake was on his way back from a nearby homeless-care-station, where he had aquired some dog- and cat food for his companions. The bag on his shoulder, he stepped carefully down an worn out iron ladder and then crossed into the tunnel of an old sewer. Some time and some rusty and grafitti-sprayed doors later, he was on the ground of his 'stronghold' again. He could already hear Jerky barking and one of the cats just jumped down from her resting place and moved towards him – a grey shadow blending perfectly with the twilight. In his mind, the Darkman smiled.

Then something else caught his attention. A little shiny piece on the ground… a coin perhaps? Nothing of value for him, but he could throw it and the cat would run after it for fun. So, he lowered down, not paying attention to the remains of an old broken strut shortly above the ground. The sharp metal scratched over the side of his hand and he recoiled with an instinctive movement. Some seconds passed, before he realized, what froze. He stared at the metal strut, then at his hand again. Tiny drops of blood ran along and fell down. But this was not, what absorbed him now. No, the pain! The short sense of PAIN was it!

I shouldn't feel anything… they said I couldn't feel anything anymore…I have not until now… how is this possible?

It took him a considerable amount of willpower to restrain from probing this discovery by a more violent attack against himself. He only stood there without moving, until the cat had reached him and twined around his legs. Now he finally picked up the shiny piece from the ground. It was a silver pendant; a little flower winding around a heart. He remembered having seen it on the bracelet of this young woman he had brought here some days ago. She must have lost it during the transport back to the subway station. He put it in his pocket. Perhaps he would make a collar for the cat…