The Haunting of Pier 56
Author's Note: For those of you that read this, yes, I do realize that this chapter was a very long time coming. College has been keeping me busy, but since I lack a job for the summer, you should see more chapters of this story (and "An Interesting Encounter", my Star Wars and Star Trek crossover, for those of you that read that) coming soon!
I looked around the deserted hallway carefully, listening for any voices or shuffling papers before I slipped in through the wall, finding myself where I wanted to be.
This was the empty office of one of the many police detectives in Manhattan—specifically, the police detective that was supposed to be working on Mark Rhode's case. We would see how hard this person was actually working on Mark's case—according to Peter, he hadn't really gotten any word from this man when he had questioned him about Mark's case files (posing as Mark's concerned uncle). Of course, Peter couldn't do much "investigating" at this point—sure, he knew the kid; had taught him in some of his classes—but he really had no position to look into anything... The only person that could truthfully do that was Nancy, Mark's mother. And from what I had seen, she was way too much of a wreck to do anything at this point other than go to the hospital to visit the kid.
Anyhow, I wasn't just going to float around here—this was the only time I really had to get started on this "investigation." I sat without a qualm at the comfortable-looking chair and focused my attention at the rather sleek looking desktop in one corner of the room. Technology had apparently made significant leaps and bounds since my death, even if everything else hadn't.
I booted up the computer, and of course the first thing I saw on the screen was an inquiry. Computer encrypted, it informed me. Password?
Thankfully, I was prepared for this. I had procured the password from the police detective himself—watching over his shoulder while he worked as his computer. I easily typed in the password, and the computer let me in. Accessing the files would not be this easy, but I had hopefully gleaned enough from the detective to guess the passcode to the police records and files on recent cases.
Turns out, I shouldn't have been so worried. Mark's files in particular weren't even encrypted—they were actually on the desktop— seemed like a pretty good bet, if you asked me. I clicked on it, and sure enough, Mark's police report and continuing case file came up—it was only a few pages, as most police reports are, but I couldn't memorize it all at once. I scanned the pages and came to the conclusion that I would have to print it. Of course, printers were obviously a must have for every office now, as there was one right next to the desktop.
The printer was also lightning fast—before I knew it, all of the pages were printed out. I was ready to get out of here. Now to discreetly log out of the computer and...
Just then, the police detective himself, O'Connor, walked in. If I had a beating heart, I swear it would have stopped. At least by then the computer was turned off, so if the man had looked, he wouldn't have noticed that I had just been using it. I didn't move as the detective walked in, grabbed a few things (including what looked like house keys) out of the desk, and left wordlessly. As soon as he left, I gave a sigh and thanked my lucky stars he hadn't discovered the pages still in the printer tray. I took the police report and made my way out of there. Mission accomplished.
Once back to the docks and in the shabby little shack I sometimes occupied, I sat down and examined the police report carefully. It was like any police or accident report I had seen; with names, date and time of the incident, and some other information that I really did not deem worthy of my full attention. However, as I scanned the report, I saw two names that I would need—the name of the person who initially called 911, and a person who, with keen eyes, reported what she thought was the license plate of the truck that had run Mark over. The name of the license plate, LYX12, was on the report, as well as the addresses of the two witnesses who had been interviewed about the incident. The report also stated that they had not found the truck yet, though the police had discovered that the license plate had belonged to a 2005 Ford F150 that had been due for an inspection nearly half a year ago. I took note of this. The perpetrator could be more dangerous than I had initially thought. If he was driving a vehicle with fake license plates as well as ran over a kid, this man (or woman, though that thought barely crossed my mind) could have much more up his sleeve.
I set the papers down on the crate and stood up, looking out the dusty, smashed glass of the little building. There wasn't much more that I could do, now that I had procured the "top secret" police report and files on the accident. I could only relay this information back to Peter, giving him the report and discussing what could be done with the information I had gleaned. I felt as helpless and as alone as ever.
I watched a spider spin its intricate and dusty web in the corner and thought about how important that "pesky Spider-Man" had been once upon a time. It all seemed so long ago. I looked at all of the dust in the room and dully realized that this was all I had become. A dusty old relic. I had been under forty when I had died, a good chunk of my life ahead of me still yet.
I felt so much older.
I decided to stop thinking for now. It wasn't going to help matters. I picked up the police report, dusting it off, and slipped it in a trenchcoat pocket. I remembered vaguely how useful those pockets had been, when I had been working on the second fusion reactor, and how they were also useful for hiding stolen goods...
I snapped out of my broken-hearted memory and made my way to a certain home in Queens...
Of course, I was wary of coming here again. The last time I had made a visit to Peter Parker's home, his distrusting and beautiful wife had practically drove me off in tears. She hadn't changed that at all since I had last met her, Mary Jane Watson—physically as gorgeous as before and fiesty as ever. When I had kidnapped the woman, she had put up quite the fight—so much that I had to threaten to kill her at least three times before she would shut her trap.
Thinking back on that, I can see why she still held a grudge. But I tried so hard to put it all behind me, put back all of the destruction I caused to the back of my mind, that it had frustrated me to no end at the time. I came to the conclusion that if I ran into her again whilst in Peter's apartment, I would be as polite as I had been previously. Otherwise, I would steer clear of her to prevent any trouble.
So this was on my mind as I glided through the front door of the Parker's home. It was the same as it had been on my last visit—mostly clean, the furniture in the same places as before. I went into the living room to find both Peter and Mary Jane sitting on the love seat, talking in worried tones. So much for not running into the woman. However, if I was careful, I could still avoid her. I still was invisible, after all. I walked around the two, so I was standing behind the couch. Extending an arm, I touched Peter's shoulder, just to make him jump a little.
And jump he did. A little too much for one of the most powerful superheroes this side of the northeast. "Gah!" he shouted.
Mary Jane looked at him quizzically. "What's wrong, Peter?" she asked, hands on her stomach. I had almost forgotten, the beautiful young woman was nearly eight months pregnant.
Peter stammered and stuttered, and for a split second I remembered the geeky, enthusiastic young man not even out of college, his hand clammy with nerves as I shook it... And then the memory was gone, replaced by the present Peter's voice saying, "Uhn, MJ, I don't feel good. Stomachache." And before his wife could protest, he disappeared into another room and shut the door.
I did not even hesitate to follow him into the room, which I realized afterwards was a guest bedroom, as the furniture in here was slightly dusty. I made myself visible, and Peter groaned. "Not meaning to complain, Otto, but out of all the times you decide on your own terms to 'show up'..." he grumbled a bit sardonically.
"Well, sorry to interrupt your important conversation," I snapped. "Would you like me to return at your convenience, then?"
Peter coughed a little. "No, it's fine, Otto. It's not a completely bad time, but it would have been nice if you didn't have to startle me like that."
"I am sorry, Peter." I saw concern in his eyes, and decided to pry a little before I delivered my news. "What's wrong?"
Peter narrowed his eyes. "Nothing that concerns you, Otto."
"No, Peter. I'd like to know. You don't look very happy about something."
He pursed his lips. "Mary Jane is laid off until six months after she has the baby. My job doesn't make as much money as we are going to need to take care of it."
I frowned, wringing my hands. "I'm sorry to hear that, Peter. I wish I could do something about it."
Peter shrugged. "There's nothing you can do at the moment, Otto. Not about this." He paused. "Did you get any information about Mark and the accident?"
I took out a manila folder which I had written Mark's name on and waved it for emphasis. "Everything's right here. Take a look, if you like."
The part-time superhero took the folder from my hands and took out the accident report, scanning down the page with his eyes. Those green eyes widened as he saw something I had purposely ignored. "My—my goodness, Otto! Curt Connors made the 911 call?"
"Apparently," I said, trying to act innocent.
Peter finished reading the rest of the accident report in silence, setting it down on the bed when he was done, looking up at me with a confused glance.
"Is that sufficient information? I can't do much more than that, I'm afraid."
Peter smiled. "This is great, Otto. Here's what we'll do. I'll go interview the woman who reported the lisence plate, and you'll interview Curt Connors."
I was not expecting this. I had truly done all I could do. I couldn't go back and talk to Curt Connors again—not after the last encounter I had with him. I couldn't do it. Still taken aback, I pointed to myself. "Me? I couldn't possibly, Peter. He knows I'm dead, and the shock could kill him."
To my utter astonishment, Peter chuckled a little. "Nah, you won't shock Curt, Otto. Promise." He stared me dead straight in the eye. "You going to do it, Otto?"
Mark's agonized face kept swimming up to the top of my memories. He would not be forgotten—no. I would not allow him to die in vain.
But... I felt like I wasn't up for this job. Curt had been my best friend... We had been close buddies and college, much like my friendship with Jon, and still were friends until my accident, and in Curt's case, even afterwards. What happened after my accident with Curt made me shudder still. I wasn't ready to relive that and see another of my old friends again. Truly, it had been bad enough dredging old memories by finding out the identity of Mark's father, but...
"Otto? Hello?" Peter was waving a hand in front of my face. "Hey, are you okay?"
I shrugged, head down. "Peter... Please don't make me go talk to Curt. I don't want him to see me like this, and I don't think I can handle it..." I pleaded.
A look of pity crossed Peter Parker's features, the pity which angered me usually but today I was grateful for. "Alright," he said resignedly. "He'll talk to me easier anyway."
"Thank you. Is there anything else I can do?"
Peter shrugged. "You should visit Mark more often. I can't visit him really, since he doesn't know me that well. But I've heard he's slowly getting better."
"Alright. Thanks, Peter. Talk to you soon, and I wish the best of luck for you and Mary Jane until we meet again." Without waiting for a reply, I left.
Again, I was by the young man's bedside. True to what Peter said, he looked just a tiny bit better every time I saw him, and seeing what injuries he had suffered, it was an amazing recovery. At first, even I didn't know what he had sustained from the accident, but sneaky as I am, I overheard a nurse talking. She had said that Mark was suffering from chest trauma, a severe concussion, a broken leg, and a broken arm.
Of course, he would not be getting out of the hospital for a while yet, especially with this so far shaky recovery. But it was a start, and I was happy to see more color in the young man's cheeks every time I came to visit, even when he was sleeping or unconscious.
However, today he appeared to be wide awake and was absent-mindedly flicking through channels on the television that was available in his hospital room.
Somehow, he noticed my presence and looked up. "Otto?"
I nodded. "How are you feeling today, Mark?"
A weak smile formed on his lips. "Better. I'm not going to be running a marathon any time soon, but I'm okay for now, I think."
I allowed a small smile myself. "I'm really glad to hear that." I sat down on the bed, and the boy took the remote and shut off the television.
"I always hated watching TV anyway," he noted.
I wholeheartedly agreed.
He sat fuller up in bed, and gave me his whole attention. "Tell me a story, Otto."
Quite frankly, I was taken aback. "A story?"
"Sure! Tell me a story with my dad in it, please!"
A small ache arose in my heart at the thought of Jon Rhodes and the life I used to have, but I focused on some memories I had from college with Jon, and told them to Mark until one of those pesky nurses came in and forced me to leave.
However, I left the hospital feeling a little lighter. I was making progress with the investigation into Mark's accident, Mark was making progress in his recovery, and Peter was making further progress with the investigation.
Progress, I thought. Progress always had felt good to me, and that at least hadn't changed. Progress had always made me look forward towards what the next day had in store for me. In death, I rarely look forward to anything.
But now there was a new sunrise to look forward to. At least, for the time being. And it felt great.
To Be Continued...
Author's Note: Reviews and comments are always encouraged and appreciated!