Chapter 2: In The Crosshairs

The next day Elisa was woken up at 5 AM and ordered at the crime scene. Beneath the very same cliff from the following night a smashed car was making the landscape uglier than usual.

"Good morning, Matt," said Elisa, looking drowsy.

"I'm afraid it's not so good. Two bodies in the trunk." Matt motioned to the corpses in body bags.

Elisa went there and asked the guys to open them. Shock is the best word to describe her feelings. Glasses, the closest man to Dracon, is added to the victims list. This is serious. Who might be next, Tony himself? And who is responsible for this?

Matt interrupted her train of thoughts. "Captain wants to talk to you when we finish here."

Elisa drove to the station, still bewildered by what she saw. She knocked on the office door.

"Come in," Captain Chavez said.

"You wanted to see me, captain?"

"Yes Maza, sit down. Tell me, where were you last night?"

"Home," Elisa said.

"Are you sure you haven't been out?"

She has. She was extorting money from another customer of Tony's. Is Chavez onto something?

"Quite sure," she replied, remaining calm.

"Well, I've got a tip you weren't. In fact I got a tip that you were extorting money from a few businesses- and a quality source at that," Chavez said with a penetrating, suspicious gaze.

"Captain, you don't actually believe…"

"Never mind what I believe, Maza. This is a serious matter and I can't be dismissive. The IA investigation will solve this. In the meantime, I'll need your gun and badge. You're suspended from duty."

"You are very quick to put me on the shelf, based on one tip. I thought you trusted me." Maza tried to act surprised, but she expected something like this might happen.

"Don't make this even more difficult, Maza."

She handed the gun and badge and left.

Elisa was walking down the corridor and felt embarrassed about the recently developed situation. She thought she had it under control. She was ahead on points, but the referee had stopped the match. But maybe there is another way to finish this investigation. Even though Maza took pride in being an incorruptible and honest cop, she thought it was worth it to try and finish this thing. Even if it goes beyond the limitations of the law, putting Dracon away needed to be done. But she must find out who is going after Tony, because if he is killed, all her efforts would be in vain.

So she started examining archives extensively, going through the data for every gang in the state of New York, every possible lead she could find. After nearly eight hours of work, she stumbled upon on a report about the Kundalini massacre. The report mentioned a survivor of the explosion, who talked about a shadowy figure with a skull sign on his chest! She kept on reading, and stumbled on a urban legend of a vigilante called the Punisher, who was said to be responsible for about 100 deaths of various criminals from bottom feeders to the leaders.

There could be some truth about the vigilante theory after all, she thought.

She went out for some air, feeling lightheaded from all that research. Suddenly, she was grabbed from behind and put in a sleeper hold. Very effective, especially on an already woozy person. A few seconds and she was unconscious. Some ten minutes later, she woke up in Tony Dracon's apartment.

"I should've guessed. Tony," she lightheartedly commented.

"This time I'm not in the mood for joking."

Dracon had a unsettling expression showing both fear and anger, as he stared at Elisa with eyes open wide. It was getting worse – he pulled a gun out.

"Now, you have to be truthful honey, for it may save you of experiencing not-so-quick death."

"You wouldn't dare kill a police officer Tony. You're not that stupid."

He cocks his pistol. " You have no idea what I'm ready to do, sugar. Now, explain something to me. I hear you've been trying to steer on the wrong side of the road- my side! Then I sent my man Glasses to meet you last night, to talk like reasonable people. And voila – he ends up deep sea diving, without his oxygen tank. Now, tell me it wasn't you who did it, since I'm inclined to believe you don't have the guts to do it, bitch!" Tony finishes his monologue with a vicious scowl on his face and clenched teeth.

"You think I've killed Glasses? No, Tony. I haven't seen him at all last night. Even if he went to see me, we didn't meet. And I'd put that gun down if I were you, before you do something you don't want." Elisa spoke with a soothing tone, just as she was taught at the academy.

"YOU DON'T GET TO TELL ME WHAT TO DO!" Tony explodes with rage. At that moment, he heard a noise coming from one of the lower floors. Gunshots! Something was terribly wrong. A guard next to the door ran in.

"Mr. Dracon, somebody broke into the building! There is no response from the guards on the lower floors!"

As he was speaking, M16 bullets were echoing through the corridors. Frank was coming. The big game hunter is close to his catch. He didn't want to do it this way. Stealth is generally preferred, but he made a mistake when one of the guards tried to frisk him. He noticed the gun and soon was shot, but the other guard managed to run away and alert the other guards in the building. From then on there was no need for secrecy and Frank took his beloved M16. He will feel no regret for killing Tony's pawns. None of them was a working man worthy of sparing. As he was climbing the building his focus and intense blood thirst increased. The beasts are afraid. 'Cos they never faced a hunter like me.

Killing all the guards on the bottom floor, he proceeded to the upper floors on foot; he is a big target if he comes in the elevator. Five or six guys went down till he got to the top floor. Walking through the corridors he heard footsteps around the corner. He leaned on the wall with his back. Around the corner was a long corridor with the elevator in the center of it. He peeked and saw Tony holding Maza at gunpoint with his gorilla and moving to the elevator. He smiles. The guard anxiously stands near the elevator door, waiting for them to open. As they do, claymore mine is set off and the guard leaps back in the air, crashing on the ground and starts to groan. Frank left the cover and yelled: "ANTHONY DRACON, I'M COMING FOR YOU!"

Then he started shooting but Dracon quickly moved in the elevator with Elisa. The guard groaned and begged as Frank was running toward him. Just as Frank arrived to the elevator it started moving down.

"Please don't kill me, please!"

Frank looked at him, and after a second of thought, made mincemeat from his head with his rifle. Now he has to catch Dracon who is almost at the bottom floor. Frank noticed an open terrace through the door of Tony's apartment. He started running towards it, throwing away his rifle, and swan diving from the balcony. He opened his parachute as he saw Tony running out of the building. Tony left Elisa after hitting her in the head to make sure he wasn't followed, when he left the elevator. And suddenly, coming from above, Frank hit him with his legs as he was about to land, and knocked him off balance.

"Did you really think you could escape from me?" Frank growled after landing.

Tony couldn't believe it. He heard the myth of the Punisher, but he thought it was a fairy tale. But as he looked at Frank's skull sign, it was apparent that the joke was on him. Frank took out a gun and removed the parachute from his shoulders in a quick motion.

Heavily breathing Tony was butt scooting backwards. "Who are you?"

"I am your judge, jury- and executioner, skunk! Prepare for your punishment." Frank pointed his gun at Tony's head.

"DON'T MOVE!" Elisa yelled holding a gun. She picked it up from a fallen guard.

Frank turned his head around while his gun was still pointed at Tony, who was slowly backing away. Who is this girl, and why is she trying to stop him? Bewildered, Tony was backing up with his mouth open.

"Whoever you are, listen. This man is going to die today. I don't want you to join him so put your gun down!"

"I'm detective Elisa Maza of NYPD. And that man isn't going to be killed, but taken to jail! Put your weapon away!"

"And you think he will stay there, like the last time? No, I'm not gonna give him the same chance!"

BANG! Maza panicked, and shot Frank in the arm. He crumpled in pain, dropping his pistol. Dracon took the chance and ran away, now aware that Maza wouldn't shoot at him from that distance, because she might kill him. Dammit! I've lost him again, Maza thought.

On his knees, grunting and bleeding, Frank used his small microphone to call his Battlevan. Now he was turned a bit towards Elisa and his chest sign was visible. She could hardly believe that the myth was real; the Punisher exists.

"I couldn't believe that one man could do all of what they said. I just couldn't. But you are here, and even though you probably saved me from Tony, I have to arrest you," Maza said, her voice straining with conflict.

"Yeah, shoot me and let him run. Makes sense." Said Frank "Your way didn't work. My will end his crime rule. But you are too ambitious to realize it."

Frank had hit a nerve. As much as Elisa hated to admit it, the hunt for Dracon had been her obsession for a long time. His arrest could be her big break, her way to prove to everybody else- and to herself, that she is a good cop; that she does her job well.

"Your way is the way of anarchy and chaos. We can't have order without strict rule of law."

Frank's eyes gleamed with resentment. What about his family? Or any other poor soul the system had failed? He was wounded and his prey has escaped. He won't let himself be arrested now; he can hear the Battlevan coming.

Frank turned toward Elisa, holding his bloody hand "My way will be known soon among all of them. They will fear the repercussions. Some of them may even stop and become honest. I'm your fail-safe device, detective, whether you acknowledge it or not. You'll hear more of me, I promise."

The Battlevan was coming from the nearby street. Elisa looked and when she found out that there was no driver, her concentration fell down a bit. As the van approached, the door opened, and Frank jumped in.

Elisa was standing there, while the police sirens echoed in the distance. The first drops of rain echoed against the pavement. The dawn is approaching and another day is waiting for its turn. A new day for living and dying, with new enemies to fight. Or… perhaps friends?

The End.