It is night. The sky is cloudless and a chill sliver of moon shines down on the city. In a dark room overlooking a dockside works yard, a man waits. He's been holed up in here for days. The Watch are looking for him. His is the face on the Wanted posters all over town; the most notorious criminal the city's never managed to bring to justice... yet. He knows it's only a matter of time before they catch up with him. He laughs. Those who climb the highest have furthest to fall. He's climbed the highest. He is the one everyone has nearly caught, he is the one they all want to see swinging from the length of rope on the L-shaped frame outside the town hall. But he's not going to dance to their tune. He's not going to wear the hemp tie with the special knot. He's not going to die for someone else's moral code. He is the shadow man. Old Metal-Eye, the street kids call him. He is Garrett, and he dances to no-one's tune.
He looks out of the dirty window. It's a cold, windy night, not many people around. He's been hiding in this room what feels like eternity, waiting for the police to either show themselves or give up. He longs for the fresh night air on his face after days of confinement. His feet itch for the feel of tiles and gutters beneath them, the moonlight in his eyes, nothing but his own strength and speed and agility to save him from a messy death on the street below. Stalking on high, prowling across the city never touching the street, it's like flying. Yes. Enough hiding. He wants to fly again. He puts his thief's blacks on. Bow and arrows, check. Flash bombs, check. Blackjack, check. Sword... no. Too heavy. Utility belt, lockpicks, hood, cloak. He smiles a brief, mirthless smile. Let them come.
To the casual observer, it would seem like there was a cat or something up on the rooftops of the city that night; the occasional flashes of dark movement, or a fleeting glimpse of a glowing green eye are the only traces that anything other than pigeons prowls above people's heads. But any cat that gets in Garrett's way is asking for trouble. This is his domain, this is where he belongs. He's alive and free up here and he never wants to come down. He leaps over the roofscape with sure-footed ease, exquisitely aware of the abilities and limitations of his own body, the well-trained machinery of sinews and muscles and skin and bones, so strong, so fragile. Not for him the shabby amulets and lucky rabbit's-feet and worthless charms of other nightcrawlers; he doesn't believe in luck. He believes in what he can see and hear and feel. The moonlight above him. The roofs below. The reek of the river, the crunch of cart wheels on the cobblestones thirty feet down. His own breath and the giddy pounding of his heart, the adrenaline rushing through his bloodstream with the vertiginous thrill of jumping clear across a street, the hard relief of rough gritty bricks and stone guttering under his hands. The sweat on his brow and down his back. His muscles twang and sing like bow strings as night cradles him in her inky arms, and dammit, it feels so good.
A few things catch his eye. A single candle burning in an upstairs window. The flicker of moonlight on the river. A beautiful woman asleep by firelight in a dingy attic, her hair spilling around her on the pillow like a golden storm. It's been a while since he's had a woman. Not since... no, Garrett, memory lane's nothing but trouble. Don't go down there. Memories have no benefit. The future gradually becomes the present, and once it has passed, it should not be revisited.
He hears shouting. A searchlight flickers on below him, cutting through the darkness and blinding him with its relentless white glare. He throws an arm up over his eyes, silhouetted against the light like a paper cut-out. An arrow screeches past him and ricochets off the tiles. He dives aside, right to the edge of the roof, but he's not quick enough. Another arrow takes him through the shoulder and the impact knocks him backwards. He flies, he falls, his angular body plummeting through space like a black-clad meteorite, wreathed in a billowing cloak, hot scarlet drops of his own blood falling around him like rain. He howls like an animal with the rush of it. He's not afraid of falling. He's afraid of what happens at the end of the fall. Water, glittering, multi-faceted, surges up to meet him with its icy embrace. He plunges into it headlong, the cold and the shock taking his breath away. His skin shrinks tighter around his bones, trying to keep the heat in as he sinks deep down, right to the bottom where silt and waste and weeds welcome him to the fold, wanting him to sleep down there for ever with them. Bubbles stream from his mouth like a strange silent language that only the fish speak. His empty lungs burn. He touches bottom and kicks upwards, shooting towards the surface like an arrow, so fast, so slow. He's desperate for air. The pressure's like an iron band around his skull, squeezing and crushing. He'll never make it in time; he can feel himself doubling over from lack of air. Three feet away, two feet, one...
Then his head breaks the surface and the relief of breath is so sweet it's like being born all over again, breaking out from a tiny dark watery world into a huge boundless one of air and space. He gasps and splutters, flailing one arm to stay afloat. The other cannot move and hangs uselessly down by his side. It's so cold. He's lost his gloves under the water and the bare skin on his hands hurts with the temperature. Focus. Forget the cold. Get out of here. Get out or you'll freeze to death.
As he tries to swim, the pain in his shoulder changes from a sting to a boiling seethe. Thin bloody trails float on the water behind him as he flounders and flaps, kicking frantically. The water sucks at his opened veins, a strange, sweet drain. He's not cold any more, the pain keeps him warm. He can't feel his feet, but that's alright. More arrows splash into the water around him. He kicks faster and soon they're too far away. He swims with the current, downriver towards Eastport and the factories. His arm is on fire but the rest of him is going numb. His sodden clothes are like lead and his one good arm catches in the strap of his quiver as he forces himself to keep going. It's so tempting to let go, to sag into the water and become one with the flotsam and the bones and the lost things on the weedy riverbed. A tiny light on the shore calls him like a beacon and he grits his teeth, aiming for it, his survival instincts shouting louder than his protesting muscles and the agony in his shoulder and the dear, hopeless longing for a peaceful watery grave.
The light on the shoreline is a lantern held by a woman. About six feet away from her, he gets bogged down in the swampy mud of the shallows. His knees sink and his cloak tangles around him. By now he's too weak and tired to fight it. He just has time to let out one strangled, wordless cry before his head goes under and he swallows water. She wades in towards him, up to her knees, up to her thighs. Her arms haul him relentlessly upwards, his injured shoulder screams as she pulls on it and he jerks free of the mud with a squelch. Then he's on the stony shoreline, gasping and retching up the dirty water he swallowed. He falls to his knees, then his side. His arm will not support him any more. He's covered in blood and slime, lying on the pebbles. It's so cold. The last thing he feels before he shuts down is her hands turning him over onto his back and snapping off the shaft of the arrow, leaving the head buried in his flesh like a burning metal bone.